Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Head First

So, I thought I was all done with Rosh Hashanah posts for 5769, but over on MySpace I reposted a poem from last year entitled Head First--that same poem was included in a post here on Blog Time Passing that I put up last year, From 9/11 to 5768. For that very reason, I didn't bother to include it with this years posts. But my MySpace friend Ami, who I mentioned at the end of my last post, Inscribed and Monitored, happens to be an artist, and very generously decided to turn my poem into a work of art, digitally speaking. And I, in turn, am very pleased to be able to share it with you. To get the full effect, or at least be able to read the words, you need to click on the picture, which will take you to a page where it appears in full size.

In this poem, I took a rather traditional theme/motif, the year and its seasons as a life cycle, and incorporated many of the Jewish holidays, in symbolic fashion. I also tried to work counter to the typical metaphor in which birth is linked to either the season of Spring (the rebirth of nature), or the Winter solstice (as the days start to get longer and longer, as in the Roman calendar's January 1st coming after the Christmas week). Thinking in terms of the Jewish calendar, it follows that birth would be associated with the end of Summer and the start of Fall, and death therefore would correspond to this transition period as well. This would make Winter the time when we come of age, Spring the season of mature adulthood, and Summer the time of old age. While this may seem counterintuitive, even to Jews who largely live by the Roman calendar, the Jewish cycle does correspond to the school year, which begins in September, usually ends in May or June, but can continue in Summer Session over June, July and August.

The title of the poem, Head First, of course is a reference to the name of the holiday, Rosh actually meaning head rather than new, so the literal translation of Rosh Hashanah is Head of the Year. And that in turn struck me as corresponding to the typical way in which we are born, and also the way we think of diving into anything.

My use of a feminine archetype is also a departure from the patriarchical character of Jewish tradition, but it is hardly unknown in Jewish mysticism (I studied a little Kabbalah when I was a teenager for my confirmation class, and this was long before it became a fad), in Chasidism which was mysticism for the masses, and in contemporary Reform Judaism. And it can be debated, but it is certainly arguable that Judaism has a powerful matriarchical bent to it.

Cycles are our natural experience of the world, perhaps not so much as a perfect circle as a spiral moving from past to future, but always swinging around and around. There is a kind of madness that we embraced in the West, especially since the advent of the printing press, in which we try to flatten everything out into a line, all straight lines and right angles, the mark of the machine! In this respect at least, the electrical circuit has had a positive effect in shocking us out of that obsession, and opening us up to the possibility of reclaiming the curvature of space and time! This poem is a celebration of the circles and cycles of life--L'Chaim!!!--and the illustration provided by Ami helps to accentuate that sensibility.

So, here it is:

I think this is absolutely gorgeous, and I want to say, again, thank you Ami.

1 comment:

Ami said...

it was my pleasure. your words painted a glorious outlook on our circle of life. As I touched the earth earlier that morning...the words in your poem were posted, and I was so inspired when I found them. Thank you my friend! I stand to learn much from you.