Megillat Esther - what it will look like

Here’s an image of how most pages of the megillah will be laid out. This particular image will be page 3, and the images laid on it, Vashti and a gold drinking horn from the Achaemenid period, will soon be pasted down onto the parchment. The parchment will be pasted onto multi-ply paper with a marbled backing.

Beneath that image is a photo of Maddy, Josh, and me working — Josh lettering, me illuminating, Maddy unfolding the mysteries of nature.

Megillat Esther - P3.jpg
Maddy Josh and me.jpg

Transmigrant Journals -- new story

One of my long term projects is to compile stories of odd events, other-worldly experiences, and strange dreams in a book titled Transmigrant Journals. Here's the opening scene of a story that I'm currently calling "Re-Education". 

1. Late August, first days
I was sent here as part of an educational program, government subsidized. It was a big honor. But it was far away. The flight seemed to take forever. I slept most of the way; dozed really, occasionally waking in a surge of anxiety or excitement. It was hard to tell the difference.

I was met at the gate, whisked thru customs, limo’d into the city, and escorted into a fancy apartment. All first class. Like I said, this was a big opportunity. They had plans for me. And I felt like I had earned them.

This city was unlike anything I had ever seen or read about. To my eyes everything around me looked like heavenly corridors. The buildings were as much art and sculpture as they were practical structures. Large and small were elegantly merged. Sunlight was directed or reflected into every carved niche. Often I couldn’t tell where buildings ended and botanical gardens began. But oh, such gardens! Nature’s abundant creativity delighted all my senses. And ever the transition between art and nature, and between edifice and artifice challenged my perceptual skills

I will not try to describe what I saw in each shop window. It would take too long and divert me from my purpose. Besides, who has the powers to describe such wonders? ...

Art and Nature

Megillat Esther: the calligraphy

While I have been working on illuminations, Josh has been producing pages of text.
Here's a little slideshow of some of his work...

Megillat Esther: Vashti portrait

While Josh is producing pages of text, I'm working on the illuminations. Here's my most recently completed image, a portrait of Vashti, the king's courageous wife who will not be disgraced as a sex object by the crude and drunken king.  The image comes from an Achaemenid silver bowl. This slideshow presents the main stages of the image's development.

Mystical musings by the Atternen Ju (Eternal Jew)

The following short excerpt is from a scene in The Atternen Juez Talen. Our hero has recently migrated to Poland (around 1320 CE) to start a new life, yet again. He is reflecting on a line from the daily prayers, that the Master of the Universe daily renews the act of creation (often interpreted to mean that the world, and each individual in it, is created anew each day, or even each moment). Reflecting on his own renewal, he goes off on a riff.

Here is a prose translation into standard English (what I call 'old English'), and then the original text as it was composed...

I, the Eternal Jew am a voice in the streaming world a-coil in you -- a recurring face, a recurring place, unknown, familiar, a recurring embrace. Hate me and I will choke you with hate. Fear me and I will hound you with fear. Love me and I will ignite a desire that consumes but can’t be satisfied ...

Blink and look into your mirror. I am behind you. Blink again. I am you. Was it always so? Blink. I’m gone. Was I ever there? Blink. You stand in a room well known. Blink. You are lost, and no way home. Blink. I am with you leading the way. Blink. A stranger has led you astray. Blink. You walk with your father instead. Blink. You awake. Your father is dead....

Each moment the world is created anew. And I, sub-atom, an orbit in you. Where I am, and where I will be... you cannot determine the point of me. Whoever I was and who I can be, you can’t compute that continuity. Accept me. Is this how you mean to be free?

The original text:

I, the Atternen Ju ar a vois
In the streemen werl a-koyellen yu -- 
A rekkerren fase, a rekkerren plase,
Unknoen, fammilyer, a rekkerren embrase.
Hate me an I wil choke yu with hate.
Feer me an I wil hownd yu with feer.
Luv me an I wil ignite a deziyer
That kunsuemz but woen be a sattisfy.
Studdee my bouks an yu may untwist
The okkulten thredz that taengel yur seel
In the annammah grip uv this Addom shel.
Louk tu me az the Proffetten God
An I wil kumpoze divvine skaelz
That reverben myuzeks owt uv the speerz
Koyellen yu in infinnitteez.

Bleenk an louk intu yur meerer,
An I am behien yu; bleenk aggen
An I am yu. Wuz it awl wayz so?
Bleenk. Iem gon. Wuz I evver thaer?
Bleenk. Yu stan in a rume wel knoen.
Bleenk. Yu ar los, an no way home.
Bleenk. Iem with yu leeden the way.
Bleenk. A straenjer iz led yu astray.
Bleenk. Yu wok with yur father insted.
Bleenk. Yu awwake. Yur fother iz ded....

Eech momen the werl iz kreyaten a-nu.
An I, sub-Addom, an orbitten yu.
Ware I am, an ware I wil be,
Yu kant determin the point uv me.
Hu evver I wuz an hu I kan be,
Yu kant kumpyute that kontinnuwittee.
Assep me. Iz this how yu meen tu be free?

Many notes, one Song

This is a short excerpt from The Atternen Juez Talen, or in normal English, The Eternal Jew's Tale, in which our hero has a visionary experience that he tries to describe:

We read in our prayers,* 
    “Renewing all; a perpetual day of God-Creation.
And I seen for myself that this be true. I was carried along on my rivery thoughts, every heart beat and every breath, every flickering blink of my eye, a new “me” in a new world come to the surface and then sank down; distinct worlds that bubbled and burst, and bubbled again, new and the same -- consciousness pulsing into my mind, and every mind, notes of one song: I to I, me to you, we to all, all to one; mere slivers of a slivery world that rushes thru us, seamless it seems. But slow it down and note by note it comes apart in fractallin’ thoughts.

For a short time my world slowed down and I seen its notes, one by one floating apart, each from each, and felt the Divine Song of it rejoining the slivers. River. It flows. Wonder and dismay as my eyes seen what my mind fails to understand.

For those who praise war...

The Eternal Jew hears a noise one morning. At first he thinks its thunder; then an earthquake. Then he realizes, an army is attacking. This scene in The Atternen Juez Talen takes place in approximately 1100CE. First a translation into standard English, and then the original in MetaEnglish.

And behind the forward shock of noise
The walls of dust that choke your breath
And cloak your face in a deathly mask
So dragoon and drayman, commando and corpse
All look like statues in a Roman tomb.

And this the song them dragoons sung:

We are the hollow men born for war.
We are the arrogant caked in hate.
We are the sons of pagan gods.
And we are the fruit of polluted clods.

March on, march on, man of dust.
Do what you will; do what you must.

Look on us, your conquerors,
Sharp our tongue and sharp our darts.
Look at us, above all law.
Bloody hands and bloodless hearts.

March on march on, hollow men.
Your road is long; who knows its end?

We are the wallowers, slogging in scorn.
We wallow in impotence, loving a sword.
We hide our envy in a bigot’s abuse,
And express ourselves best with a mob and a noose.

March on march on, man of chalk.
Your road is short; no time for talk.

Look on us who scorn the just. 
Past? We’ll have no piece of that.
Look on us, who mock your trust.
Future? We’ll have no peace in that.

March on, march on, hollow men.
March on, to find your punishment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s the original metaEnglish version, with its more overtly vibrating language:

We arren hawlo menz bornen wor.
We ar the araggenz kaekt in haets.
We ar the sunz uv pagen godz.
An we ar the frute a poluten klodz.

March on march on, man a dus.
Du wut yu wil; du wut yu mus.

Louk on us, yur konkerren.
Sharp ar tung an sharp ar darts.
Louk at us, abbuv awl  law.
Bludded hanz a bludles harts.

March on march on, hawlo menz.
Yur roed iz long; hu knoez it enz?

We ar the wawlowerz, sloggen a skorn.
We wawlo in impotens, luvven a sord.
We hiden ar enveez in a biggets abyuse,
An espres ar selz bes with a mobben a noos.

March on march on, man uv chok.
Yur roed iz short; no tiem fer tok.

Louk on us hu skorn the jus. 
Past? Weel hav no pees a that.
Louk on us, hu mok  yur trus.
Fewcher? We hav no pees a that.

March on, march on, hawlo men.
March on, an fien yur punnishen.

Vanity and play: some self portraits

As a diversion while sketching out an essay, I took some photos of myself reflected from the computer screen. Today, Shabbat, not working, I decided to play a bit and shop them up. Here's some of the results. I named this series of 5 slideshows 'Reflections'.

A phenomenological experience

Another episode where the borders between thought, reality, and dream broke down. As if each thought were tangent to, or a window onto, a whole other world. Images – they seemed like forgotten but internally vibrant dream images – would evanesce up, and it was impossible for me to know if they were dream images or things I’ve experienced in this world. Hazy, just on the edge of consciousness, but brightly ‘colored’. Perhaps simply thoughts that were being amplified somehow. Each seemed to have a whole life behind it.

Perhaps this is a formal description of what I was experiencing:
Fractal consciousness in an n-dimension geometry, each thought a vertex or tangent on another world.

Scary but fascinating, like a taste of higher consciousness. But also out of my control, mysterious, confusing.

Jonah ReVisioned

The Jonah story, traditionally read on Yom Kippur is often explained as being about repentance. However, in truth it’s mostly the tale of a troubled guy who feels called by God, but at the same time has serious issues with his calling. He’s cranky, rebellious, cynical, mean-spirited, and petulant. Further, the story has much in it that even ancient readers could not take seriously: the absurd whale scene and equally absurd repentance-of-Nineveh scene, replete with the animals having to wear sackcloth! This is well beyond even the ancient view of reality. And in truth, Ninevens couldn’t have cared less what Hebrews thought, a fact that ancient readers surely were quite aware of.

Thus, our authors have re-visioned the text, in attempts to expose the real Jonah. Two of us re-wrote portions of the story. A third person engaged in a therapy session with Jonah. The fourth envisioned Jonah after his Nineven tour of duty.

Our general thesis is this: this is not a text about repentance; it is a text about moral ambiguity, self-deception, and the effects of inner conflict. Join us in this journey on new ways of understanding Jonah.

Read all 4 vignettes at: http://forward.com/scribe/386907/jonah-reimagined/

New work on Megillat Esther

Very busy summer... Hope yours was memorable and uplifting.

Since my last post Josh and I have done a lot of work on the megillah. Here's a little slide show of some of what we've been doing. Enjoy!

Essential Notes on Linguistics, 9

Essential Notes on Linguistics, 9
A Guided Tour into MetaEnglish

It is no surprise to me to hear that readers have trouble reading my poetry, written as it is in MetaEnglish, which I fondly call Steevtok (aka Steevspeek, Steevspel). Not only is MetaEnglish written phonetically, thus changing the appearance of most words, but it uses new and much more flexible rules of grammar than standard English (which I call Old English). And, I don’t hesitate to create new words or borrow foreign words, as well.

This makes it impossible to read my work quickly and easily. Studies strongly suggest that we decipher words like hieroglyphs, seeing the whole word as a unit and gauging the context, and only when uncertain, processing consciously the individual letters. Thus, when you read my poetry, you can’t fall back on your default reading method of roaring along at 90 mph and not being concerned with most of the scenery. Until you become fluent in MetaEnglish, you will need to sound out many words from the individual letters. And even after you gain some fluency, you will still need to drive in first gear, being prepared to stop, back up, and, horror of horrors, reread, possibly numerous times. The rest of this essay will unpack my thinking as I write in Steevtok. I hope you will find it a useful guided tour, which I will end with a brief discussion about why I have chosen to hold to this difficult course, and why I believe there is much to be gained if you are prepared to accept the rules of the road in Steevtok country.

I will focus on just a few lines from Wile Sayenz the Sh'ma, I Wuz Herd..., which I translated into Old English as While Saying the Sh'ma, I Heard.... I’ll compare the 2 versions, and explain what had to be stripped out of the Steevtok version to make it conform to Old English.

First, let’s look at the title. I’ve talked about the verb form embodied in “sayenz” elsewhere - a combination verb and noun, ‘saying’ and ‘sayence’ (no, it’s not a word in use in Old English, tho the form is common; it’s a word/form I’m adding to the language), as well as a standardization of the slang/spoken form, sayin’, thus endorsing the organic, ever-changing nature of language. All of that information and superimposed thinking is lost in “Saying”.

The translation, “I Wuz Herd” to “I Heard” involves a similar stripping of information embedded in MetaEnglish to conform the text to Old English. In this case, the verb “Wuz” plays a number of active roles. First, it can be read as making my hearing a more passive experience, slightly removed from the more direct, “I heard”. Second, it pushes the experience out of the present into the past, making it more reflective. Third, it flips the experience from me doing the hearing, to me being heard. Consider the context: Here I am, praying, attempting to make myself present/heard in the divine/infinite/eternal realms. At the same time, the prayer I am reciting demands that I listen for/to the divine. Thus “Wuz Herd” superimposes my attempt to listen with my actual hearing. And of course, the whole point of this poem is to let the reader know that it is possible to hear/experience the divine, while giving the reader the specific tools that may facilitate that very hearing. My interest in writing this poem is not so much to tell you what I saw, but to help you, the reader, have your own transcendental experience. I am trying to heighten your experience by expanding and amplifying the neural processing of your brain, by showing you more than one thing at the same time, by challenging you to read with more open eyes, with more expansive thinking. I should note that the word “Herd” will also generate ‘after images’, ‘shadows’ that will color your thinking subtly, in this case with the idea of ‘a herd’ (of animals).

An aside, before I penetrate further into the structure of MetaEnglish:

I use the term “divine” with some trepidation. It is a word that carries a lot of baggage, much of it useless or detrimental. Thus, in my first reference to this word I combined it with “infinite” and “eternal”. I ask you to imagine experiencing the world with infinite consciousness, a consciousness that transcends time and space. That, for me, is the “divine.” I am not talking about some childish understanding of a God that is more like Santa Claus -- that fellow up in the sky who brings gifts to good little boys and girls and makes bad little boys and girls feel bad. However, if you really don’t like the word “divine” please replace it with “infinite” or “eternal” or some other word you prefer that conveys the sense of a state of awareness that is vastly more expansive, insightful, and compassionate than your normal state of consciousness.

The first line of the poem is,“Yur evver wun iz this Ruwakh werl”, which I translate into, “You are in everyone in this Ruach world.” The translation states a commonly held opinion that is probably more cliche than insight, even tho, in those moments when one experiences the divine, it is no cliche at all, but a great astonishment and elevation. But the MetaEnglish version presents a very different statement. Here, multiple things are being said at once, some of which are well outside our standard theology and well-trod imaginings. If I am referring to the divine with the word “Yur”, then, beyond the translation into Old English, I am trying to say: 1. You ARE everyone; tho blind, we are coequal with the divine; 2. You are ever, always, one, unified, and that is the essence of Ruach/Spirit; 3. the sum of everyone is the Spirit; 4. the Ruach, the Spirit is a separate world; 5. the Ruach is this world, and NOT a separate world. By breaking the rules of spelling and grammar, I create a translucency that is not possible in standard English. Rather than an opaque wall of words (brick-like words), I am trying to create a window of words (translucent words), a window into multiple dimensions; or, words as prisms that diffract light into multiple colors.

The first sentence of the second stanza is:

Yu wuz a spoke in a roer
That ar the seemz a silens,
Tho yur proffets sayenz ar wisperz
Evver wun heerz
But hu ar lissenz?

I translate this into:

You who spoke in a roar that seemed like a silence, tho Your Prophets say it is a whisper everyone hears, but who is listening?

Here again, the translation tells a story well within the framework of what a well-read reader would know. I hope it is succinct and penetrating, but I expect it is not a revelation. The Steevtok version aspires to much more. “Yu wuz a spoke in a roer...” sets the tone with its noun-verb fusion in ‘spoke’. Obliquely referencing Ezekiel’s “wheel in a wheel”, the divine is described as having once been a spoke of a roar, but not all of the roar. In other words, the divine is embedded in reality, but not so easily extracted. At the same time, the line allows for a reading in which the divine did speak in a roar. This is set in the past tense.

The next line, however, “That ar the seemz a silens” modifies the first, and is set in the present tense. What was once hearable (theoretically) now seems to be silent, or it is embedded in the seams of silence, the sounds of silence, or it is lost in those seams. Note also the double meaning of ‘a’ in “seemz a silens,” acting as an article and also as the preposition, ‘of’. This is another example of how I integrate slang, organic grammar, into MetaEnglish.

The third line modifies yet again our understanding of, or our expectations of what the experience of divine hearing will be like: “Tho yur proffets sayenz ar wisperz”. The prophets have said they heard it as a whisper, or the prophets’ words themselves are but whispers. “Evver wun heerz // But hu ar lissenz.” Everyone hears the prophets’ words, or is it, everyone hears the divine voice in the seams of our silences? But, indeed, who is listening, and who can hear what is silent? Note, also the verb-noun fusion of “lissenz.” As a verb it can mean, ‘who are listeners’, but as a noun it becomes something more subtle and rare than that: who is it that defines themselves by their listening? Who is the embodiment of listening? It is one thing to listen; it is another thing entirely to be A Listener, a medium for the divine.

I believe that brief tour has touched on many of the ways I use MetaEnglish to try to expand awareness and enrich our language and our thinking. To summarize, the core concepts of MetaEnglish are:

1. a normalization of the written to the spoken word;
2. translucency of language;
3. superimposition of words, grammatical forms, images, time frames, and ideas;

These 3 for the sake of:
4. attempting to create higher dimensionality and richer complexity in our thinking; and
5. attempting to replicate, or generate, the experience of the divine.

If this makes sense to you, or if you find it intriguing, I invite you to read my works. You might want to begin with the earlier writings, In the Harvest ov Nations or the Elmallah series. After that The Pardaes Dokkumen is intended to be a new book of Zohar. Beyond that, my current project is The Atternen Juez Talen, 2000 years of the Eternal Jew’s journeys and experiences. And of course, I urge you not just to read these books, but to extend the process yourself! Steevtok is an innovation opening up new potential in the technology of language.

Megillat Esther: Akhashverosh colorwork

Here's a little video of the progression of colorwork on the first image of Akhashverosh for the Megillat Esther that Josh and I are producing. There is some touch-up yet to do, but this is close to complete....

While Saying the Sh'ma, I Wuz Herd...

While saying the Sh'ma (the most well-known of Jewish prayers, which we are enjoined to say morning and evening; it begins, "Listen, Israel!") the other night, these words passed thru my mind...
The poem is still rough, being only 2 days old. But here's what I have so far, first in metaEnglish (SteveTok), and after that a prose version in old (ie standard) English:

Wile Sayen the Sh’ma, I Wuz Herd...

Yur evver waer iz this Ruwakh werl
But hu knoez the Ruwakh tu see it?

Yu wuz spaken a roer
That ar seemen a silens,
Tho Yur Proffets say iz a wisper
Evver wun heerz
But hu ar lissenz? Evver wun
Stanz so klose but stil too far.

Wy shoud I beleev sech a theeng?
I, an annekdote uv yuez.

Yu sen Yur messajjerz.
I doen open my iyz.
Thay greet me but I am no respons.
Thay proffessiy in Yur werden.
A win uv hissez. A babbel a brouk.
An infant gergeld. Yu hu ar spoken.

Yur messajjerz shake me by the shoelderz.
I wake in sech a trembelz.
I pik up a pen in my emteenes.
I rite a werdz, nor an arid gust.
I kan fien no meen in this.
I kloze my Bouk, that rokkee gullee.

The letterz re-arraenj aerselz.

Yur messajjerz leev me.
Wut am I enneeway?
Jes a dreemles nite.
Later, I open the Bouk tu Yur paje.
Hu iz rit in theze siferz?
Misten vaperz, I wil dissappeer,
Foelden intu the porres aer.
Wut wuz nevver herd, in iz konstan spaken
Awl so foeld in the Ruwakh uv us.

Behole!
Tho nutheeng iz chaenj,
Heer, I stan in 2 werlz.
Iy, the Ruwakh raze frum my Bouk.
Werdz laen like a pile a stane
Bekum a lenz on a werl a lite,
A stane glas pannel in a holee plase.
Misten vaperz, thay dissappeer,
Enfoelden intu the Addom uv us.

Thaer I stoud a braken leenk;
Heer, forrevver bown tu Yu.
Atternen heelenz that onee Yur Proffets notis.

Jes az Yu re-arraenj my werdz,
So Yu re-arraenjen us awl.

Such ar lissenz, Uddoniy ar God,
An such ar we heer, Uddoniy Ekhud.

--------------------------------
Now the prose version:

While saying the Sh'ma, I Heard...

You are everywhere in this Ruakh world but who knows the Ruakh to see it?

You who spoke in a roar that seemed like a silence, tho Your Prophets say it is a whisper everyone hears, but who is listening? Every one stands so close but still too far.

Why should I believe such a thing? I, but an anecdote of you.

You send Your messengers. I don’t open my eyes. They greet me but I do not respond. They prophesy Your words. A wind of hisses. A babbling brook. An infant gurgles. You are speaking.

Your messengers shake me by the shoulders. I wake with such trembling. I pick up a pen in my emptiness. I write some words, just an arid gust. I can find no meaning in this. I close my Book, that rocky gully.

The letters re-arrange themselves.

Your messengers leave me. What am I anyway? Just a dreamless night. Later, I open the Book to Your page. Who has written these ciphers? Mist and vapors, I will disappear, folded into the porous air. What was never heard in its constant speaking, also is folded in the Ruakh of us.

Behold! Tho nothing has changed, I stand in 2 worlds. I, the Ruakh raised from my Book. Words lain like a pile of stone become a lens on a world of light, a stained glass panel in a holy place. Mist and vapors, they disappear, enfolded into the atom of us.

There I stood a broken link; here, forever bound to You. Eternal healings that only Your Prophets notice.

Just as You re-arrange my words, so You re-arrange us all.

Such, our listenings, Adonai our God, and such are we hear, Adonai Ekhad.

Megillat Esther: new images; colorwork

After gilding Akhashverosh, I began the colorwork, but I ran out of black (for the beard), and it took a few days to replace it. In the meantime I began illumination work on the 2nd image, a gold rhyton (drinking vessel). Concurrently I continued developing the sketches for new images. My recent focus is on some "filler" images, based on Islamic illuminated designs. In the following slideshow you can see my progress...

Megillat Esther, Akhashverosh illuminated

I failed to mention in my last post on the megillah Josh and I are making, that most of the images are based on Achaemenid artifacts, some, or many of which may date to the very era in which the Esther story takes place. So you art historians, you should have some fun unpacking the history of these images.

I have completed the illumination of the first image, King Akhashverosh, that merry old soul, known in the Greek as Xerxes. He was a real jerkxes. Here are three images...