#2316 - Tuesday, November 15,
2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz
Letter to the Editors: Click 'Reply' on
your email program, compose your message, and 'Send'. All the editors will see
In this issue are two longish articles from different cultural
backgrounds and the common theme of boxes. The following quotations from the two
articles might entice you to read further.
"We opened the box together. Inside was a seashell, a faded picture of me
from a Florida newspaper,
a tile, a marble, and a lock of Eitan’s baby hair.
I was a little bit baffled. 'What is all this?' I asked Eitan."
"The journey began about 10 years ago when Hirata read a Japanese
translation of the Tlingit story about how Raven gave humanity the moon by
stealing it from an old man who had trapped it inside 10 nesting boxes."
Invitation to a spiritual journey
by Rabbi Mordechai Gafni
The words ‘Lech Lecha - get up and go’ invite us to great biblical
"And God said to Abraham: Get you out of your country, and from your
kindred, and from your
father’s house, to the land that I will show you. And
I will make you into a great nation, and I
will bless you and make your name
great, and you will be a blessing. And I will bless those that
and I will curse those that curse you, and through you shall all the families of
earth be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).”
The simple yet wondrous meaning of these words is a call for a grand
journey to the Promised Land –
the Land of Israel. This is a critical
calling, one that we must not ignore, even in our own time,
when so many
varieties of post-Zionism seem to be in vogue.
However, if we have learned anything from the both gorgeous and painful
process of realizing the
Zionist dream, it is that the literal fulfillment
of the Lech Lecha imperative is woefully
insufficient in slaking the thirst
of the nation’s inner longing.
There is a great and growing yearning for deeper meaning; for the inner
music of the divine clarion
call to Lech Lecha.
The Zohar sensed that there is an additional, more profound level of
understanding of the words
formed by these four Hebrew letters. The Zohar
reads the call quite literally. Lech means ‘go,’ and
Lecha means ‘yourself’;
so the Zohar's dramatic reading of the great call of Lech Lecha is ‘Go! To
This is not only a historical-national imperative, as important and sacred
as that may be, but also
a revolutionary call to your-self.
But what is the self to which you are invited to ‘go’?
It is to this question, the ultimate question of who is my-self that we now
turn our attention.
To begin, a story:
I woke up the morning of my departure for a lecture tour of the United
immediately, I was running late. I had some semblance of
breakfast, said some form of brief morning
prayers, and grabbed my suitcase
to go. Just as I was running out the door to the airport for my
all-important and very precious tour, my son Eitan, then five-years- old,
said to me, “Dad, can you
take this box with you?”
He held up a little blue shoebox balanced in his hands.
“Eitan, sweetie, do I need to take it now?” I asked him hurriedly.
“Yes, Abba, yes, Pappa,” Eitan told me, “it’s very important. Take it and
tell me what you think of
it when you get home."
He looked quite serious, and so I took the box, stuffed it in my suitcase,
gave him a kiss, got
into the car, and sped off into the whirlwind of the
A long 10 days later, I returned home close to midnight. Eitan, usually in
bed by eight, was
wide-awake, waiting patiently in the kitchen with a look
of enormous gravitas on his face.
“Eitan, honey, why are you up?” I asked him.
“What do you mean, dad?” he asked. “I stayed up to hear what you think of
A look must have crossed my face--I couldn’t even lie--for Eitan said,
“Abba, didn’t you look at
True meaning of loneliness
I felt terrible. I ran back out to the car and dug through my lecture notes
and clothes to find,
beneath the piles, Eitan’s box.
I came into the kitchen to see a tear finding its way down Eitan’s cheek. I
sat down and gently
said, “I’m sorry, Eitan. I had a crazy trip and I didn’t
get to look at your box. Come; show me
what’s in it.”
We opened the box together. Inside was a seashell, a faded picture of me
from a Florida newspaper,
a tile, a marble, and a lock of Eitan’s baby hair.
I was a little bit baffled. “What is all this?”
I asked Eitan.
“Dad, these are my things,” Eitan said to me as another tear ran down his
cheek. “I gave them to
you and you didn’t even see them.”
At that moment, I understood what loneliness truly means. We all have boxes
and in those boxes are
our things, our authentic stuff. Not our jobs or
titles, not our salaries or public-status
trophies, just our stuff - the
unique patterns and swirls of the soul; our soul print.
Over the last century, rising tides of crime have helped introduce the new
detective’s tool - the
Modern biology and biochemistry have led us to DNA prints, the unique gene
structure that makes up
the signature of every human being. At the dawn of a
new millennium we need to understand that DNA
prints and fingerprints are
ultimately just reflections of something far deeper - the soul print.
Your soul print is the true essence of who you are; your soul print is your
unique story in the
world. As the great philosopher Ugo Betti declares,
“When I say ‘I’ I mean a thing absolutely
unique, not to be confused with
Intimacy with the divine
Your soul print is etched with the lines of your pathologies and fears,
your hopes and your dreams,
your memories, angers and all of those
irreplaceable, fully special, pieces that make up in a
the woven fabric of your story.
Those “things” cannot be reduced to gender or religious affiliation; they
cannot be reduced to
statistical data available about you. They cannot be
fully understood by socioeconomic, cultural,
psychological, or any of the
other standards used to judge a person or to understand a human being.
Your soul print is the unique snowflake essence of your soul, which makes
you who you are. Unlike a
snowflake, however, it never melts.
Your idiosyncrasy is integral to your essence. It is strange, sad, and
sometimes funny to realize
that we spend so much of our energy and time
trying to fit in and hide our idiosyncrasies - when
what we should be doing
is let them be revealed – viewed from the casing of our Soul Print Boxes,
flaunted proudly as our soul print banners.
This then, is the true meaning of the Zoharic understanding of Lech Lecha –
Go to Yourself: An
invitation to your infinite and unique soul print,
through which you become intimate with your
self, with the other, and with
~ ~ ~
Rabbi Mordechai Gafni - Teacher and student of Torah; Leader of Bayit
Chadash Spiritual Community
and Movement; Chair of Integral Kabbalah at
Integral Institute of Ken Wilber
Scuptor's private passage on display
Goro Hirata's artistic journey through Southeast Alaska on display in
By DAWNELL SMITH Anchorage Daily News
Published: November 13, 2005 Last Modified: November 13, 2005 at 03:52 AM
Photo of Goro Hirata
Once upon a time an old man had a shining ball of light that he kept in a
box. A raven found out
about it and decided to steal it from him. The raven
flew over to a tree branch that loomed over a
river near the man's house.
The bird stayed on a branch and waited.
When the old man's daughter came to fetch water from the river, the raven
turned himself into a
leaf, floated from the tree down to the river and from
there slid inside the daughter's body. ...
-- from Tlingit mythology
When Goro Hirata speaks, he sounds like a kayak paddle sweeping below the
surface, rhythmic and
steady as a blade pulling against the sea -- pull lift
pause splash, pull lift pause splash. His
voice cuts the surface with the
softest slap, then pulls through an idea until silence says its
Last year, this slight and quiet Japanese sculptor built a kayak and
explored the Inside Passage
alone. Raven drew him there. The journey began
about 10 years ago when Hirata read a Japanese
translation of the Tlingit
story about how Raven gave humanity the moon by stealing it from an old
who had trapped it inside 10 nesting boxes.
Those nesting boxes tell his story, too. Since his time as a student, he
has sculpted holes and
dwellings from natural materials. He thinks of them
as places to inhabit alone, places with
singular views of the sky, the
weather, the world.
"This small hole is my starting point," he said. The idea of nesting boxes
"for me, is close to my
work and very close to my mind. In humans, we have
many boxes. Everybody has a box."
During his artistic journey up the Inside Passage, Hirata built 10 boxes to
represent the 10
nesting boxes that held the moon.
As sure as the raven sees more of the world from up high than a lone
traveler in a kayak down low,
Hirata saw more of the Inside Passage than
most people, but still only a sliver of its vastness.
"I traveled a very small part," he said. "It was like opening a door and
seeing through just a
Along the way, he built rock, mud and clam shell sculptures that will soon
give way to the
elements. He documented them but never intended them for
public viewing. For him, the sculptures
represent a private passage.
But his work also relies on natural materials, which makes many people
compare it to the
environmental art of Andy Goldsworthy, a British-born
artist who creates arches, domes, spires and
other forms from rock, wood,
ice, feathers and so on. Hirata's photographs at the International
of Contemporary Art this month certainly share Goldsworthy's sensibility about
The images in the central gallery document the sculptures Hirata
made on his trip.
One photo shows a mud mound in the middle of a tear-drop of seawater, no
footprints in sight.
Another shows a swirl of clam shells built into a
conical sculpture on a flat-rock base set on a
boulder. Still others show
rock structures of varying heights, most photographed against the hues
climate and landscape.
Photo: "Raven and a
Whale," Cape Fanshaw, Alaska
Yes, Hirata shares Goldsworthy's appreciation and use of natural materials,
but their work differs
in intent and inspiration, said Julie Decker, an
artist and board member with the International
"I think both create works that are personal and intellectual," she wrote
via e-mail. "But Goro is
not inspired or influenced by Andy Goldsworthy. I
think Goro once described Goldsworthy's work as
poetry and his own as a
Where Goldsworthy's work seems to make a statement about the materials, the
land and the
environment, Hirata's speaks to something bigger, said Decker
-- "to this concept about how we see
the world, how we exist in space, how
containment allows us to experiences things differently, how
we can learn to
see more acutely."
Soon after, the daughter gave birth to a child. The child had dark skin,
and his pitch-black
shining eyes had a supernatural light to them. The child
began to cry demanding to see inside the
box. Because the child cried so
hard the old man decided to open the box. When he opened the box
another beautifully engraved box inside. Inside was another box. When he opened
box, it had a beautifully woven basket inside. Inside the basket
was a white shining ball of light.
Paddling alone up the Inside Passage from Ketchikan to just north of Juneau
took Hirata on an inner
passage of himself. He had to pay attention to the
weather and sea. Early in the journey, he got
his first taste of danger when
the wind picked up and the waves got rough.
"I made an escape to shore, but close to shore I saw big waves," he said.
"That was my first
dangerous situation, but I found a small village to
escape (to) and the people there helped me."
Truth is, people helped him everywhere, from artists who put him up in
their homes to skeptical
park rangers in kayaks. Hirata's encounters with
people and danger filled his days on the water,
but the most difficult part
had to do with finding the right place for each sculpture, deciding the
appropriate form and then gathering the materials.
The actual paddling and building were easy, he said. It was the watching
and searching that took
time -- the paying attention to weather changes and
landing grounds; the searching for sculpture
sites and waiting for good
light for photographs.
The photos he took make up the public part of his art. They offer moments
in time, place,
orientation and experience, each a box of its own. Hirata's
exhibit doesn't attempt to express the
whole of his yearlong endeavor or
even nudge toward the meaning of his inner passage. The postcard
announces the show states only the dates and title, "Raven Steals Light," and
doesn't have an artist's statement except for a typed page
that tells the Tlingit story of Raven
stealing the moon.
Artist Don Mohr of the International Gallery generally avoids applying
meaning to art, least of all
someone else's, but he spent a lot of time with
Hirata. Mohr sees the whole idea behind Hirata's
journey as fanciful and
imaginary. He appreciates Hirata's dedication, but Mohr mostly admires his
"I respect obsession," Mohr said. "In artists, I mean. Goro has that."
In Hirata's case, the obsession has to do with closing off what you don't
need in order to focus on
the essence of something, said Decker, "but that
essence is very esoteric, very ephemeral."
During this trip, Hirata entered a large space and built small ones, she
said, "and he experienced
those spaces, those were for him. The
documentation of those experiences and those spaces is for
us. I understand
the work on an emotional, gut level and find it fascinating. But I find it
difficult to articulate its purpose or meaning. It is without a tangible
purpose -- it is
impractical, it is compulsive, it is obsessive. But I don't
use those as negative words. His
journey was those things in the way that
any intellectual, spiritual endeavor is. ... I see it as a
kind of universal
desire to test oneself, to have a meaningful experience, to discover something
new, to stretch the mind. ..."
Once the sphere was out of the box, it began to light up the room. The
child asked the man to open
the skylight so he could see the sky. At the
moment the man did what he was asked, the child turned
into a raven and flew
away into the sky with the bright sphere.
The raven flew to the summit of a high mountain and threw the sphere up
into the sky. The sphere
turned to the moon and stayed there. It still keeps
going around the sky.
Hirata's worn, scuffed kayak hangs in the north room of the International
Gallery this month, along
with several landscape photos and pencil-marked
maps he used on his trip. He built the boat as a
sculpture, using metal
tubing as armature and white nylon as skin. He shaped the narrow wood paddle
and painted the blades black and red.
The only sample of his art -- a flat rock sculpture -- sits alone in the
south room, tall and full
With so little explanation, the exhibit leaves many questions unanswered,
but Hirata never meant it
to end a journey. He meant it to continue the one
he's on. In the short term, he wants to complete
his route by reaching the
heights of Mount Fairweather in Glacier National Park. He might also make
book of photos and stories since, for him, turning the pages feels a lot like
traveling -- like going to the next place, or pulling a box out
of a box.
Despite his hopes, Hirata can't say for sure when or if he'll make it back
to the Inside Passage,
but he knows that returning to Japan this month will
take him further and further from his
experience and work.
"For me, it is a difficult situation to make a lot of work for galleries
and museums," he said.
"After I start my traveling, I am very free. I can
think about only my traveling, only my work."
Every artist wants inviolable time to do art, but most don't get or make
the opportunity, said
Decker, at least not for a full year, 24 hours a day.
"I think artists like Goro have ideas that are bigger than what a gallery
can hold," she said.
Already, Hirata feels the tug of schedules and obligations. Everyday he
moves further from his
inside passage, but he knows something opened up
because of the trip, something as yet unknown and
unseen, a box to another
In the din of Barnes and Noble last week, Hirata as kayak paddle softly
slapped through the sea of
voices and began to pull against an idea before
letting silence say its peace.
"I don't think I know yet what changed inside myself," he said.
~ ~ ~
RAVEN STEALS LIGHT continues at the International Gallery of Contemporary
Art through Nov. 27. Goro
Hirata will speak in Anchorage, Fairbanks and
Juneau as part of the Alaska Design Forum lecture
series. In Anchorage, he
will appear at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Anchorage Museum of History and
Cost is $10 for the general public, $7 for museum and Design Forum members and