Art, Faith, and Discovery
I recently found this quote by Albert Camus, author of the literary classic The Stranger: “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
Camus’ sentiment is lovely, describing the creative process as a journey back to the feeling of aesthetic awakening. The idea reminds me of one of my favorite passages written by Jewish mystic Abraham Joshua Heschel, redefining faith:
In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal… The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the response of that moment are the forces that sustain our faith. In this sense, faith is faithfulness, loyalty to an event, loyalty to our response.
Every world religion describes a state of original bliss from which we’ve fallen, and each promises a path to reclaim that feeling. It seems to me that Camus and Heschel are both riffing on this theme. Camus’ trek is the pursuit of art; Heschel’s path is the practice of memory.
Science offers its own variation on this theme. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was built to crash beams of subatomic particles together at near light speeds, attempting to recreate the energy levels exhibited by our universe just after the Big Bang. At these energy levels, the four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces—may have been fused into a single, symmetric “superforce.” Physicists think it was only as our universe cooled that this force’s symmetry broke, allowing the distinct forces we’ve since discovered to separate and clarify.
The symmetric state in which our universe’s forces were unified is an interesting analogue to Camus’ heart-opening images and Heschel’s “lifting of the veil”. Our cosmos was newborn, energetic, and rich with potential. It’s no wonder physicists are driven to recreate the situation; the possibilities for discovery are thrilling!
We all have perennial experiences that shake us awake, stir us with grandeur, and change us forever. We become seekers the rest of our lives, always trying to get back to the perfection of those first revelations.
Mine was musical: “The Warmth of the Sun” by The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson’s falsetto floating above his family’s rich harmonies has influenced everything I’ve created since. I’m always trying to reproduce the lush beauty of that recording and how it made me feel, whether I’m recording music, writing prose, or designing visual art.
What was your first revelation?
Add your thoughts
I have enjoyed all of your poetic interconnection posts and the current one is no exception. I like Heschel’s interpretation of faith as faithfulness to an idea or an experience. That seems to do away with the distinction between faith (irrational) and logic (rational) and makes faith more a matter of familiarity. My first revelation was musical also (no great surprise there…). I was 13 years old and attending summer camp. Four camp staff members performed as a barbershop quartet and I was transfixed. I had never heard that wall of sound before. Four voices, one sound. e pluribus unum. I have loved making that sound and listening it over and over from others ever since. And for the record (no pun intended), The Beachboys aren’t too shabby either.
Thank you! I found this unsourced quote online: “Barbershop quartet singing is four guys tasting the holy essence of four individual mechanisms coming into complete agreement.”
My faith in God helped me get through the physical loss of my son Stephen. Once I embraced and surrendered, I started to receive and heal. Make no mistake, if you ask you shall receive. I have changed forever, and was transformed. When my chakras (energy centers) opened from the trauma, I saw the white light all around me and felt the love pouring in. This has given me a new way of looking at everything. I became multi-dimensional. I see and feel the energy from the electro-magnetic field. I can manipulate it with the palm of my hand like a magnet. This is the spiritual forces that we all can connect to, if we raise our level of vibration. I did, and I am able to feel and see my son’s energy, the formless. The gift I was given is oneness with all.
Thank you for your beautiful comment, Renee. So glad to hear you’ve continued to be well, happy, and blessed since the Science and Nonduality Conference last September.
what you describe has been a feeling or knowing that has revealed itself to me in small flashes of intuition? or inspiration since I reached my 40s. It was the strongest in the presence of a teacher I met in 2000 (may he rest in the presence of the Light) Recently these insights are fewer and farther between and I yearn for a practice or technique to return to them. The constant stress of dealing with ‘matters of consequence’ in the words of ‘the little prince’ the day to day struggle to pay the mortgage and feed my family seems to cloud my efforts. The sufis say we should work to be in this world but not ‘of’ this world and I yearn for this ability.
Thank you for your comment! I’m reminded of one of my favorite Sufi quotes, by Abu Sa’id: “The perfect mystic is neither an ecstatic devotee lost in contemplation of Oneness nor a saintly recluse shunning all commerce with mankind. The true saint goes in and out among the people, eats and sleeps with them, buys and sells in the market, marries and takes part in social intercourse, and never forgets God for a single moment.”