Archaeologists argue the actual date when the first painter stenciled his hand onto cave walls, somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 years ago. Earliest man was compelled to make a mark, to leave something behind. A memory of him. A gift to us. The human hand is a powerful symbol of our human potential. Flesh and blood, our life coursing through our veins, from our hearts to our hands, and into our sensitive fingers. Touch is how we experience the world.
The hand can reach and grasp: a tool, a paintbrush, a pen, a weapon. Perhaps its greatest strength is what it conveys through gesture, in both the secular and sacred world. Our non verbal communication is a affirmation that something beyond words connects us. The symbolism of a hand gesture may only be within the context of esoteric rite or ritual and known only to that community. Or, it may extend itself to the global family. Our communal symbols and signs are how we experience the world.
From the shameless to the sublime, we know what gestures signify. It is the rudeness of giving someone the proverbial finger. Thumbs up, thumbs down. The calm of the open V peace sign, the power of the fist clenched in solidarity. Deliverance. Defiance. The Hindu and Buddhist mudras. Hands in prayer. The bending of ring finger and pinky in benediction blessing as a sign of the Trinity. A kohen (priest) forming the Hebrew letter “Shin” with both hands, fingers split (“shin” also represents the word Shaddai, a name for God) to confer a blessing.
In an episode of television’s Star Trek called Amok Time, Leonard Nimoy‘s character, Mr. Spock, half human, half alien, is introducing us to other people of his Vulcan race. We are glimpsing an alien greet his alien community. To signify the moment, and to create a richness of their culture and civility, Nimoy created the single hand, split finger version of the kohen’s Hebrew blessing he had seen as a boy. The Vulcan race, with its manner of ritual, of greeting, of community, offers the sign to one another with its message: “Live long and prosper.” It was the power of the hand, the strength of its gesture. Nimoy said that it “touched a magic chord.” It did. We immediately understood.
Leonard Nimoy died on Friday, February 27, 2015. He was 83. He has left his mark, his memory, and his gift to us, in that same unending way as the early man stenciling his hand on a cave wall. To the far reaches of space, where words and time hold no sway, the enduring image remains.
Orbiting 250 miles (400 km) above earth on the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Terry Virts commemorated the passing of Leonard Nimoy with the Vulcan hand gesture. To the right of Virt’s hand is Nimoy’s home state, Massachusetts, though Leonard Nimoy’s world would become so much bigger. We give the greeting to Mr. Nimoy, who gave it to us, this one last time. We offer it in softest silence, as he, now with his fully human heart at rest, makes his voyage to the eternal frontier.
THE FAB FOUR
Raphael – The group’s bad boy. Rebellious, he doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do. His personality can be fierce and sarcastic, with a deadpan humor.
Weapon: Twin Sais. Color: Red
Leonardo – The level-headed tactician and responsible one. Creative. Protective. He has strong leadership qualities. As a result, he sometimes conflicts with Raphael.
Weapon: Twin Katanas. Color: Blue
Donatello – Less outspoken, a calmer, more reserved member of the group. He is the the wise one, and though quiet, he is intense. The least violent in the group, he uses peaceful methods to solve conflicts, but never hesitates to defend his brothers. He is a Ninjitsu master.
Weapon: Bo Staff. Color: Purple
Michelangelo – Easy-going, fun-loving, athletic. He is often the comic relief in the group, with his physical antics and carefree style. While he loves to relax, he also has an adventurous side. He knows how to wield those sticks!
Weapon: Nunchakus. Color: Orange
Wait a minute! These aren’t the Beatles, they’re the Ninja Turtles. Or — are they?
But…it WAS 50 years today when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
And here’s another clue for you all: Leonardo was Paul.
Take a pin to your ego.
It’s hot air in an old balloon.
Jung said, There is no coming into consciousness without pain.”
You will feel better. We all will feel better.
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t care much where…
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which was you go.
Alice: …So long as I get get somewhere.
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you only walk long enough.
Maybe you’ve encountered a rift in the earth. One tectonic plate sinks beneath another. It’s not the kind of ground breaking you had in mind.
Or the way might be flooded and you can’t get through. It’s not the image you had of yourself, rising up from the sea foam like Poseidon, or Aphrodite on the half shell.
Or maybe you are trapped, mesmerized by the reflection of your own image in the floodwater. It’s not what others meant by staying fluid. You might be like poor Echo, pining away watching someone else watch their reflection in the water.
Even simpler, maybe the compass rose has lost its petals and you realize you are traveling in the wrong direction.
Have you ever found yourself lost like this? Are you lost, right now, like this? Does it feel like the intersection of blood and guts? Which way do you go?
Go this way, and it’s the blood of the walking wounded, or the sacrificial lamb. Maybe that lost little lamb is you. Or maybe you will be the one to hurt someone else down the road. It’s the easier path to take. No apologies necessary. Losses cut. The escape route.
Or go that way, with guts – it’s taking the long, winding road. Perseverance. Compassion. All options and consequences considered. A harder path to walk.
None of it’s easy. Free will? It’s a bitch.
Maybe the journey takes us along all of the paths. The road is filled with seekers, navigating blood and guts. May the rose ride up to meet you, may the wind be at your back… We are Whitman wanderers walking towards a glowing inner light…
In language, some words diminish in value, the meaning loses its weight over time. Today, everyone’s a genius. And everything that happens is epic. There are also words and phrases that completely lose their true meaning, their relevance, and their beauty, in a devolution of their original form.
Over the weekend I attended the virtual Essential Magic Conference, hosted in Portugal by Luis de Matos. It was filled with the best in magic, and attended by over two thousand people from 74 countries. It is a fine learning experience, and creatively stimulating, even if you are not interested in magic. One of the presenters was Norberto Jansenson, whose work combines storytelling, mystery and magic. His talk was intense and inspiring, and something he mentioned struck a chord. It was the true, lost meaning of “abracadabra”.
While the word “abracadabra” may bring to mind faded images of magic acts replete with red curtains and a rabbit in a hat, the original word is far more compelling. There is a theory that the word is derived from a Semitic language. Jansenson says it is Aramaic in origin: “Avra kehdabra” — meaning “I will create as I speak”. How beautiful, rich, and powerful. It represents the spontaneity that, in the moment, gives way to articulation and creativity — sparking and igniting right before your eyes. It is a shared experience of wonder, from the ancient Greek theater to this morning’s street performer, occurring in full presence of the moment.
With a little digging, I found the source of the phrase may originate from these three words – ab (father), ben (son) and ruach acadosch (holy spirit). The three points form a triangle, a trinity, and the enclosed space of the three lines is where building is possible. Where things begin. Where magic happens. Art. Articulation. Astonishment. I will create as I speak. Abracadabra.
With gratitude to Mr. Jansenson for creating that moment,
While walking through Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, I came across this poem written on a window that had been cemented over. Even though it is not English (it’s Italian), it evokes a dark mood, with its sloping black S words on a cement wall. The alliteration creates a snaky hissing sound, and the words seem to reveal dreams with the weight of a serpent, writing, eschewing vanity (smiling monkeys “spit on mirrors”), vulgarity and its slippery steps, slinking and sinking into the night’s moon…and silence. Is this a dream of awakening — an uncoiling spiral of kundalini energy? A anxious, sexual dream filled with innuendo? What significance does this hold for the writer? What compelled him to write his dream on the wall?
I also read a friend’s blog post, author Dr. Jean Raffa’s post on the significance of dreams. It’s a exploration in brilliant decoding, explaining the meaning and symbols a particular dream revealed to her. These are the things that propel us towards spirit, their unfolding and synchronicity plug us in to a deeper awareness. But, they require an intimate relationship between our consciousness and our attention. In today’s world, we wade through information overload and a pull towards material possessions. Information is not knowledge. Objects are not symbols. They distracts us from tapping into discovery of the self. In the truth of that discovery, even when it’s painful, we have a better sense of the world and our relationship to it.
Both the wall poetry and Dr. Raffa’s blog reminded me of Paul Simon’s tune, Sound of Silence, with its recounting of a dark and moody dream. The image and symbolism remain with him when he wakes up. The song, written by Simon when he was only 21, is a cautionary tale of how our distraction, apathy and materialism point us in the wrong direction. Lack of awareness is isolating, and ultimately leads to a breakdown in communication. That kind of silence is never golden and a neon sign can never supplant our divine spark.
How about you? Do you focus on symbols, or objects? Are you brave enough to decipher and share share your dreams?