Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Passover and Singing for Biscuits

The Serenade!

It feels as if we've been climbing for generations upon generations to get here … and we're still not there yet. But … since we worked so hard over the years to get there, I just can't help but to ask, "Where is "there," anyways?" Are you lost yet? Don't worry, soon enough you will be … and deep in the desert of oblivion, salvation, and ultimate redemption … screeechh! Wait a second! That sounds just too loosey goosey for me. Let's back up to the week before cleaning the spring Khumetz … um … you don't know what a khumetz is, you say? Don't worry, khumetz is mostly irrelevant until it comes time to clean it, and it's too late to start now … or is it? No matter, let's continue. Let's start with khumetz. Essentially khumetz is the stuff of this paragraph, except for a couple of sentences, some at the beginning and this one at the end, which we just arrived at.

This story really begins while shopping in the local super market, when a very large man walked towards me while chewing noisily on a biscuit. He wore flip flops and a tank top with loose fitting shorts. He was singing to himself, which explains the noisy chewing, and had a distant stare with glazed over eyes. He passed me ... and then broke into song and dance for the Israeli woman behind the bakery counter, in Russian. When his performance was done, he sauntered away singing in Hebrew that he doesn't know Hebrew, English, Arabic, or French, only Russian. As he disappeared down the aisle, we all looked at each other quickly, each of us smiling from ear to ear, and then just went about our business.

I wrote this story down after it happened, and in the process of writing it I realized that I would probably make art out of it, since that's what I mostly do these days. I came to realize, while drawing the image that had been floating in my head, that the biscuit he had in his hands might have been the last biscuit that the singing man was going to get before Passover (Pesakh) arrived. He must have broken into song and dance on the spur of the moment, maybe even realizing the same thing; that, when Pesakh hits in Israel, the entire country changes its nature and becomes a different beast altogether. This is one of the amazing things about living in such an ancient land, amongst its ancient people, that we all share one of the longest histories in human history, and one that has enveloped the globe only to return to its indigenous homeland, the Land of Israel.

So … just to be clear and concise, khumetz is what we do and make most of the time in our lives. We get a week or so to be khumetz free, by cleaning the cracks of our lives, our minds, and our kitchens of the fluffy, empty stuff. This week we get to swim to the bottom of the pool's deep end, we get to fly into the ozone, we get to ride the biggest wave in the world, and we get to slide down the slopes of the universe from the top to its bottom. This week is 'all' about living in the real world, the one that was created for us to inhabit. And, the miraculous part of this entire procession though the desert is, those of us that are fortunate enough to have been able to erect our tent poles in Israel, 'we' get to do it TOGETHER in our ancestral HOMEland!

Thanks for reading and Moadim l'simcha!

For more artwork, please visit me at www.doronoll.com

Monday, April 4, 2016

Purim and the Chart of Oxymoronic Ideas

Study of the Foundation Stone

Having just come down from Purim, I find that the chaos I’ve created is trying to unhinge itself from me. It’s hard to let it go. Chaos, it seems, is a kind of safety net that I can use to hide from the world. We all do it, you know … at parties, dance clubs, bars, or any social gathering; though, if we don’t have some kind of spiritual underpinning to our worldview it’s easy to get lost in all the chaos. That’s why I like Purim so much … I think. It allows me to compact my chaotic thoughts and feelings into a sanctioned spiritual event that has historical precedence, plugging me directly into a tradition and a social fabric that can help to build the world with. It’s a weird, oxymoronic idea, right? Building the world with chaos…

But you have to remember that when God built our bubble of existence He started with Tohu vaVohu (formless and empty), essentially chaos. But it wasn’t really chaos, was it? There is always a seed before the expansion into perceived formlessness … always. Back in the time of Ramban, you know … the guy that discovered the thing we now call the Big Bang (think seed) from no more than text in the Torah, most people thought that the world was the center of the (physical) universe. We still, to this day, think that the thinkers in the world like Copernicus, Galileo, and Magellan were the original explorers of our world. That’s because we think our world is purely a physical reality, which is entirely plausible and understandable, coming from the Western world as we do, or at least I do, but, nevertheless, totally trumped up based upon convenience and human ego.

The world is a lot older than we think, and at the same time still just an infant. I know, another oxymoronic statement, but these things mean a lot. When you combine two extremes most will say that you even out the whole, arriving, in a sense, back in the middle or with a compromise. I don’t agree. When two extremes are combined, both separate worlds become accessible. One doesn’t cancel the other out, nor does the entire equation become truncated or flaccid. The fertile ground for growth and creativity actually, not only doubles, but exponentially expands like biological cells splitting, and then splitting again. This is why things seem so chaotic in the world, with extremists from all walks trying to convince absolutely everyone that they have seen the light, no matter how dark that light may seem to others. We get lost trying to justify our emotions, ideas, and cultural heritages, whether it comes from a religious source, a secular source, a political source, or even from close to home like parent’s and grandparent’s logic and wisdom.

We’re proud of our cultural histories. We’re proud of our beliefs. We’re proud of our heritage. And we’re proud of our philosophical outlooks, as we should be. The problem is that most of us hang out on one side or the other on the chart of oxymoronic ideas in the universe, meaning we are stuck in our ways, and stubborn to the core … going back generations. And as we unfold into the future, it is only going to get worse. The hardest place to reside is … not in the middle, but embracing the chaos of both extremes. That’s not to say one extreme has more or less merit than the other, but to seek to understand each for its own folly. Every idea is a seed, with form, without chaos. Every bit of essence within that seed is complete order, with everything in its exact place. We are charged with finding the folly within the merit, and the merit within the folly of each idea. Then, of course, chaos ensues, where the idea is expanded upon into a bubble of potential and we start to desperately cling to anything that seems familiar.

Maybe that’s why I like Purim so much, because it reframes the world for me, forcing me to derive underlying order out of chaos. When all is void and formless it’s like having a blank canvas ready to paint. The idea is there, floating about in many unrelated parts and waiting to be put together. The idea is already born, the seed has already been planted, with all of its order and potential just waiting to explode into something beautiful and inspiring. That is the human condition. We are building the world from having been void and formless to bring that order back into it, to see beyond our history, our philosophy, our culture, and our beliefs. All of these things are the tools that we have been given, the chaos that needs shaping. So… Purim, for me, must be the time when we can see the order within the chaos, uniting both extremes of our oxymoronic existence, and becoming One with the universe … just for a day.

For more artwork, please visit me at www.doronoll.com, and Shavua tov!