Thursday, January 18, 2018

Touching the spot within us that transcends the human

We went to see a very interesting presentation on the campus of IWU by Tim Ternes, director of the St John's Bible program at St. John’s. You can read about this project and how it came to the campus HERE.

Part of the presentation was this video on the artist and originator of the project, Donald Jackson. His work and his comments are worthy of much reflection. One of the quotes that struck me when I first heard it was this:
... so when they open a page of a Bible like this they take in their breath, not because they have been impressed by the cleverness of it or by the detail of it or even the shiny gold. But because there is something there that they already knew, it's all like meeting somebody that they have met before at some point. And that is in a sense, the kind of feeling that the artist reaches to.

This quote from Jackson brought back memories of a quote from Helen Keller’s autobiography about her breakthrough to language: 
We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly and then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then, that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, giving it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
Author Jeremiah Alberg writes about Keller's breakthrough and how she describes it:
This is Helen Keller’s breakthrough to language,... Yet, if we listen to her, it was not a breakthrough to something completely new. Instead, it was the “consciousness as of something forgotten,” the “thrill of returning thought.”
As Jackson describes the awe-inspiring experience creating and witnessing real beauty, it is as if one is sensing something that they've experienced before or met before: just as Keller describes the breakthrough to the most powerful of human experiences, language as something forgotten with a thrill of returning thought.

There is, within each of us, that connection to a larger experience, ... there is something greater here ... there is something greater here than our words can describe.

Here is a link to the w-a-t-e-r scene in The Miracle Worker: