Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Monday, October 12, 2015

Horn of Plenty

Racing down the freeway on the wrong side of the road with an Afrikaner at the wheel, who happened to be grumbling about the other drivers and the poor state of affairs that the country had fallen into, was an interesting, to say the least, introduction to South Africa. We had just come out of the Botswana bush, visiting Zambia and Zimbabwe to see both sides of one of the natural wonders of the world… named for Victoria. We had just camped in the bush of Botswana with elephants ripping trees, hyenas sniffing, badgers digging, and lions roar-mumbling through our camp of dome tents. It's hard to recall every experience, but, while in Zambia, I do recall a large group of baboons robbing a train of its tubers and fruit while it waited. They just ripped open the plastic tarpaulins of the open cars and feasted upon what they found. I remember the falls, too. Even with low water-flow due to drought they were magnificent. I remember the French tourists with fancy luggage that didn't have enough US dollars to get from Zimbabwe to Zambia. And I remember the hippo outside our tented room at night, munching methodically across the lawn.

At the time I had no idea that at the back of my mind lurked an armored cow with an Eastern horn of plenty. This creature of mythos and grandeur was filled with patience, it seems in hindsight. As we barreled down through the paper-pulp forest, as explained by our guide behind the wheel, we found it necessary to put up with the hauntings of so-called reality, as usual, but knew deep down that we were waiting for the real world to violently split the butt-seam of our waking world. Rhinos existed in the wild, but, so, so sadly... not for long. We asked our mad driver, but he replied with cryptic references. We didn't understand, yet, that he had been instructed to do so by the social fabric of the eco-tourist board of directors. We just felt that we had asked impertinent questions about rhinos… in the wild. I began to feel set upon, and immediately began to question if this was an anti-Israel thing, or at least an anti-American one. We had arrived back into the civilized world from the bush of Africa and were greeted by awkward conflagrations and suspicion. Or… was it just my own mind playing its tricks on me...

Arriving at our destination in Kruger, the Sabi Sands, we were greeted by some very interesting people, one, in particular, a large man that was introduced as the son of our madman chauffeur and proprietor for the next week. We witnessed this son only one more time, sitting around the South African campfire behind modified grammar school desks and eating our plates of food, while they watched, one leg up on the fire pit between us. I ordered a beer: everyone else…? Yes, a mineral water or soft drink. I felt that they had me, at that point, right where they wanted me, but I wasn't playing their game, now, was I…? They didn't know how to categorize me, after all. Was I from Israel or the US? Was I a Jew or a Goy? Was I an eco-tourist or an ego-tourist? There were many questions that I perceived circling the enclosure, swirling in and around that fire pit…

It wasn't until the next day that we realized something was terribly, terribly wrong. We seemed to be at the wrong camp altogether. I mean, it had a different name and everything… So we moved. I was so pleased to see our new guide once we arrived that I completely forgot about the round South African good-ol-boy standing to the left of the mad driver proprietor, part of the trio that night around the schoolyard campfire. The new folks were awesome, actually parting with information about the rhino problem in South Africa: There were human beasts lurking in the woods around us, we were told. These beasts were the ramifications of a world gone mad, a world embracing chaos. With up to 90% unemployment in neighboring countries, the rhinos were easy pickings for the desperate survivalists that had been forged within civil war and abandonment. Poachers prospered, but the middle-men made a killing selling their wares to the East.

Big East business deals were toasted with the stuff, this horn of plenty, in their champagne flutes. The horn of the rhino meant more than just an animal's useless appendage. It meant wealth and status. It meant human ego. And, it was a sign of the destruction of our little blue world floating in space. It signaled the end of all we call us. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, it seems… Suffice it to say that when I finally arrived back at my home base on the planet, I was able to see through the fog and put some of these pieces together. There was a war brewing… no, not brewing… underway.

We see it as only dark and light, black and white, but that is so, so wrong. It's not about our limited senses as it comes to our physical environment; it's always been about the spaces between, the electron subterfuge that permeates quantum physics, the mystical stop and go haunting our waking dreams. I speak to you now as an almost 53 year old adult male that has spent his life seeking the unknown reason for existence. I am a lost soul, a lost spark, separated from the truth of our existence. I seek, every day, to find a path back to this awesome reality. I seek, but only find window panes, door cracks, and effervescent half-understandings of the truth. I am alone, but ironically I am One with all of creation…

The terror attacks that have been fomenting chaos all around me, back in my home base of Israel, seem to be the same exact phenomenon as the rhino poaching problem in Africa. The haves have, and the have-nots want. These terrorists are being paid, whether it is an eastern business man, or a middle-eastern father of 3 with an extra kitchen knife. The worth of the physical outweighs the worth of the truth; a depressing inevitability, but sadly one that rings true. When it comes to survival, emotional, psychological, physical, the truth is unrequited and unwanted: we are utterly alone.

May the fallen find refuge in the world to come, may the bereaved find solace while still in this world, and may mankind discover the real truth of our existence: that we are all ONE!

Shavua tov.

Friday, September 11, 2015

One Tribe

Seeking perfection in the world can get very myopic, in the sense that perfection itself is one of the most simplistic ideas there is. All we really have to do in order to arrive at so-called perfection is to let go of our ever-present, preconceived notions of what we think the world needs in order to be perfect. I know this is circular logic, but a perfect loop 'is' the closest thing to perfection that we can mentally muster. With this in mind, all we can do while we have the honor and privilege of visiting this chaotic world, with all of its darkness, love, and it's beauty, is to try our best to live big, making as small of a ripple as we can while we do it.
Before I left for Africa, I felt I was making so much random noise that I forgot what the world even sounded like. It's hard to filter through the egocentricity that inevitably surges when given the chance. It took some time, as well, after landing in the bush of the Botswana wilderness, to clear my head from the media driven news that I had been trying so hard to avoid and ignore. My mind was continually plagued by my own existence, whether existentially due to the political folly and vapid cruelty that had been making ripples around the region, or from my own feelings of inadequacy professionally and artistically.

In Africa all was laid bare. Our journey began with a decision to freely tell those that we encountered along the way that we lived in Israel, something that we didn't totally permit ourselves while traveling in Indonesia and Malaysia, due to the politics of religion. While traveling in that part of the world, the locals that we did let in on our little secret, regardless of their religion, were ignorant but sympathetic, many of the fellow travelers we met tended to be ignorant and unsympathetic, due to their reliance upon mass media for their roots to gather sustenance from. This dynamic was not so different in Africa, but after time in the bush our individual worlds began to meld, becoming a "bush family, or tribe," as our Botswana bush guide, Eddie, stated in our introduction to the bush.

As processions of giraffes, elephants, and zebras crossed our tribal caravan's path, the preconceptions and ignorance from all members of the tribe began to slough away, including mine. There was that first night, when, after trudging in and around our campsite smashing, eating, and farting, an elephant pushed over an entire tree, thankfully in the right direction, a few meters from our tents. This episode began the tribal cohesion process; but, it wasn't until one member of the tribe, a young woman on her honeymoon with her husband, spotted a leopard behind a thicket that ultimately initiated us all. Together we witnessed this leopard hunt, catch, kill, and eat a bird at very close range. From that moment on we were forever connected by this one, collective, bush experience.

And this collective only increased its connectivity as an ever-increasing amount of giraffes, elephants, and zebras crossed our nomadic route through the bush, until we witnessed a tragedy of the wild, an elephant carcass stinking alongside the road. It had died of anthrax poisoning, an affliction that they can suffer from licking old bones, of which there are plenty strewn about, bleaching in the sun. While we waited for one of our younger tribesmen, sick from the smell and the bumpy ride, to quietly relieve himself of his breakfast behind a bush, I noticed a game camera chained to a tree in order to ensure the safety of the poor creature's ivory tusks. The poachers in Chobe are ruthless and dangerous, coming mostly from Namibia across the river; where, once with binoculars we even witnessed a ranger (apparently) making a deal with a local, as the local hacked into the tusks of another dead elephant with an axe and a hacksaw.

The uncomfortable beginnings of our adventure into the wild, coming from separate and even opposing world views, had disappeared completely, having experienced, together, such a foreign and wild environment. Through our collective experiences in the bosom of nature, we had become one tribe, separate from the rest of the world. However, it was still apparent that our leader, the chieftain of our nomadic bush tribe, Eddie, was still only a guide for ecotourists... until just before dusk one evening, late in our journey together. It started, as usual, with a procession of zebras crossing our path. Then a large dust cloud was spotted ahead (we found out later it was from stampeding Cape buffalo). 

Eddie told us to sit down and then hit the gas. We flew down the bumpy dirt road until we came to an abrupt stop, dust flying everywhere, and out of nowhere a pride of nine lions trotted down from the hillside right in front of us, cubs and all. The large male was missing, most likely guarding a kill they had made, since their bellies were so fat that the cub's bellies were almost dragging across the ground.

Our entire tribe was shocked into silence, accept our guide, who began to explain to us some of the dynamics of a pride of lions, and that they were probably headed for a watering hole. We were sitting in an open vehicle, with no roof and no sides, but the lions paid no attention to us as they moved through, as if we were inert and unappetizing. After they passed our tribal vehicle took off down the hill, four-wheeling right up close to the watering hole, and we watched...

We were all flabbergasted, except for our leader, who looked quite pleased with himself for giving his guests a really good lion sighting, until we noticed one of the lionesses stalking up the hill away from the watering hole. Then something screamed and a quick dark spot began to bounce around, running wildly into another lion at every turn. It was a baboon that had been caught in the tall grass next to the watering hole with no trees to escape into, screaming for help from his friends... help that could never come. That was the moment that our guide joined the tribe he had created, muttering to himself, over and over, "Oh my god, oh my god...Oh my god..."

We all watched in fascination, and in horror, for as long as we could, but the light was fading and we had to depart back to our campsite, a ten minute drive into the night. Later, while zipped into our sleeping bags, zipped into our little dome tents that were sparsely scattered about, listening to the roar of lions, the baying of hyenas, and the crunching of elephants, even though we had finally become a tribe of nomadic bush people, we trembled and dreamt of a larger world, full of darkness and full of wonder. In the African bush, our ragtag group of way-fairing tourists and one time idealists of the ego finally had arrived at perfection. We were One.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!  

For more pics, click here

Thursday, April 2, 2015

God's Missing Arm

selfie in space
I finished it. It started as fecund air seeping under the door of my mind, and it grew. The air inside it held it up from the earth and floated the whole thing skyward, past the atmospheric event horizon and beyond. The world I had known was only a memory, and what I found myself staring at was the glass that bent the light from above. I'm not kidding. If we understand that we are beings that exist in time, then we know that the world we envision to our right and left is only an illusion. Our world really exists in the fourth dimension, in time. Wait … not really in time, but … that the world we can see and understand is represented by what we 'call' time, here, in our little corner of this vast, vast universe.

Funny enough, I found myself staring at a fish. Then I noticed a bull barreling in from above. A pitcher, not of baseball … but of water, urging itself up into my frame of vision, the whole time being acutely aware that something was aiming an arrow at my heart, piercingly … lovingly. And, all the while, deep in my awareness, or really just pressing upon the back of my head, was this idea of two instead of one, like my mother, like my son, like my little brother from California who was once coming to visit me in the Middle East. There was a crab and a ram, and there was a lion, like my father, and there were others, too…

I knew when I had finished it that I would need to sleep, and then to learn, and then to walk and to dream. When I awoke, it was minutes before our maids from Faradis, a town named by traveling Crusaders, came to do the standard bi-monthly cleanup. Waking in this nature was not usual, as I work through the night, normally, and find it difficult to arise with the sun … in the morning. It seems I had prepared my subconscious for the day ahead, however. So, I ran through my routine. And then, after the allotted time, I found myself having a vision on my hike through the nature reserve with my black and white dogs. I realized that, having been acutely aware that I was to spend the rest of the day in my kitchen scouring the refuse, the khumetz, the risen and rotten fluff from the year past, I envisioned the Hebrews leaving their homes. What could possibly cause such an exodus? We all have homes, and we all understand how difficult it must have been for them to up and leave everything they knew and, more importantly, understood.

There was a secret here … suffering below the surface. It had something to do with suffering … The obvious take is that the Hebrews were slaves, suffering their master's whims. I think, though, that it must be deeper than that. I mean, God is infinite. God put the Hebrews there in the first place … but why? Some would say that God is an illusion, like the Greek and Roman gods of old. Some will say that it isn't important to dwell on such things, and that the real world is about experiencing life and living while you are able. Others will say other things … but, what I think is … that, not only is there one God but that he was lonely, which was the only reason that he made us in the first place. I mean … can you imagine being an infinite being with no one to share it with? It would be like being the last man, a book-loving librarian in a post-apocalyptic world, with an unusable smashed pair of reading glasses getting crunched under your clumsy feet.

If I was God I would have given my right arm for someone to talk to, someone to share it all with; and that is what I think happened. God must have had to constrict his infinite self just enough to leave a pocket of space, and I mean 'real' space, as in outer space. Now, if it was me then I would probably have suffered a bit giving up my right arm, but I would have known in the deepest core possible that it was totally worth it.

This is what Passover must mean then: to have gone through the crucible, suffered as much as is possible as a people, only to reemerge thousands of years later into a greatness of being. The Jewish people have outlasted an onslaught of terror throughout the ages, since their inception … as two million souls stood before God at Mount Sinai. From the get-go they were challenged, harangued, and slaughtered, but were able to pass this special awareness on from grandfather, through sons, from grandmother and through daughters … and speak to us all today, having partaken in the one and only ‘group’ revelation of God and our world known to mankind. That's why I chose to be Jewish. Based upon what I knew about the world, it was the most rational thing I could have done.

Pesakh Sameakh and Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lost Pieces and the Fourth Dimension

More artwork at doronoll.com
Much has happened, most of which having disappeared unceremoniously into the fourth dimension. My last post was months ago, before I lost my day job working for the German factory, advertising their gas systems and baked goods to the world. It was before my night job started its journey on 'its' self-absorbed path to supernova, eclipsing my day job with naked abandon and a flick of a finger. It was before my youngest left on his cosmic journey to illuminate the dark, magical corners of his mind, while testing his body's limits, and then pushing those limits beyond the conceivable with what he had found lurking there. It was even before a forbidden, but courageous creature followed us home one night, making his way into our lives and becoming fat. But, was it actually courage that this creature possessed, or was it a lack of sense as a 'lack of sense' can sometimes make us believe? Most likely, this forbidden creature followed us home that evening out of madness, brewed and fermented upon the streets, as sure as your continued foray into this post of the lost pieces shall be. Buckle up.

The war was over. After landing "between rockets into a mine field of ideas, of philosophies, of religions and cultures," life went on in our little, kaleidoscope corner of the world. There were 5 days of waking to the buzzer next to my head, slogging to the day job at the German's, and unsuccessfully hashing out the constant incongruity that grew from the cracks and corners there. My night job would continue to haunt me during my waking hours, feeding the creation fire, and then my dreams would be rudely interrupted by the buzzer next to my head. Day 6 would be a relief of cosmic proportions, usually starting with a long bike ride through the wilderness and ending with a thorough house cleaning to prepare for Day 7. The circle of monotony was whole and complete, but only complete like an American donut; with a hole in the middle.

Some of you may know of my two dogs, Dude and Bongo, who until recently also had a hole in the middle. Since my black dog, Dude, has a white spot and my white dog, Bongo, has a black spot, I always fancied the idea that they were a kind of manifestation of the logo on my first surf board, a Yin & Yang symbol. As a child I even custom cut and fit the grip tape on my skateboard into a Yin & Yang. I loved it, you know, the whole idea of duality continually pulling at the world, a cosmic fight between good and evil with mortals like you and me sucking up the flotsam and jetsam, to maybe attain a better vantage point to view our lives from. More recently I have become aware that the concept of duality is flawed, since in order to make it work in the first place, it needs a Creator to kick start the whole thing. And, likewise, the Yin-&-Yang of Dude and Bongo wasn’t whole. It, too, had an imperceptible hole that was only visible once it had been filled by the most unlikely of creatures.

Max, the cat, careened from across the street and out of nowhere, ran up to the dogs, and scared their collective spots right off. Normally, Dude hunts cats as a pastime and Bongo bounces around for the ride. This time it was both of the dog's turns to leap into the air, looking foolish and hoping the other dogs in the neighborhood hadn't seen. After assaulting the dogs, Max just yawned and trotted up to my wife, who is horribly allergic to cats. Both dogs recovered their senses, mid-air, and attempted to pursue Max, but I held them back. My wife then had a turn to leap into the air, as she yelled over to me that the cat was insane, and that something was terribly wrong with its brain! Then it followed us home. Now, every night, with Dude's leash in my left hand, Bongo's in my right, we walk the streets at night and Max the cat darts in and out, brushing our feet with its tail as it repeatedly swooshes past, turns, and then flops onto its back sporting a Cheshire grin. The cat is definitely mad (his full name 'is' Mad Max), and I now understand that a plain, dualistic world view makes no sense at all.

Take my youngest son's current undertaking for example. He's in the IDF. He's a soldier with a really big gun that he brings home with him on the weekends. He was always a very sensitive boy, with emotions like a bull's-eye painted upon his chest. From his experience with such things, and after he began to grow into the giant that he is today, back in high school, he took it upon himself to protect the younger kids from bullies. I was proud then, and I'm even more proud now. He's a very emotional young man, innocent in so many ways, yet holding such power and integrity… I am so, so proud of his accomplishments. How can it be that this could be so? After all, we lived in America, the land of the free and home of the brave. We had everything and my son could have grown up to be anything he wanted, but we hauled him off to the Middle East in order to be a soldier on the frontline against terror (albeit, only as an important step and not as a final destination…). Maybe, the answer is this: Back in the Old Country, we lived in a place that many refer to as paradise, in Boulder, Colorado. When we moved from America to Israel, my wife was even quoted in an interview in the local paper when she said, "We are moving from Paradise to the Promised Land." I think this quote about covers it, and as a bonus, it is also why duality doesn’t work: Duality is just too simple, too boxed in, too plain. The truth is big, out there, and never what it seems…

It's all about the truth, but truth is veiled behind so many, many layers of everything from opinion to ego, from color to hue, and from value to grey-scale. Truth is an enigma in this day and age. Ultimately, the 'only' truth we can possibly know and even attempt to understand is birth… and death, the entrance and exit points to this world. These are the things of power, of lasting truth, of wisdom in the world. The moments between are only stories to pass the time, to build the world with. The moments between define the world we call real, but are really only just fiction bouncing off the walls of our finite universe. The truth lies beyond our veiled minds and souls, waiting for science to produce facts that undeniably establish said truth as fact. We are afloat in the cosmos, but… thank God... we are alive!

I hope to see you all at the group exhibition that will open next week on Monday, the 2nd of February at the University of Tel Aviv (the show is up all month). If not (or for more information), then please visit me online at www.doronoll.com or on Facebook at just plain 'doronoll.'

Looking forward to seeing / hearing from you all soon!