Saturday, June 25, 2011


How we perceive things is largely dependent on our interests. One who is hungry tends to scan his surroundings for food related objects; while one who is looking to buy a new piece of furniture will notice furniture stores and adverts. When playing 'I spy' with children, [where the child searches for a specific object that you've chosen in the surroundings and given them only its first letter as a clue], the child sees the world through the lens of the clue letter. She ignores objects beginning with other letters, and identifies and calls out objects that start with it. Everything is temporarily seen in reference to a particular letter.    

Kabbalah presents a four rung scale of perspectives of reality:
1. Asiyah (action) - minded people are predominantly pragmatic and utilitarian.
2. Yetzirah (formation) - minded people are bohemian and aesthetic, appreciating the beauty even when it serves no practical purpose other than aesthetic pleasure.
3. Beri’ah (creation) - minded people are abstract-thinking and scientific in their approach to life.
4. Atzilut (nearness) - minded people are religiously inclined, viewing things as a means of connecting to G–d.
Every individual possesses all four levels of perception, albeit in varying proportions. Usually one of the perspectives is dominant. We also tend to travel to and fro along these inner worlds.
Let's use a chair as an example to distinguish between the four perspectives. The Asiyah perspective dictates that the chair be comfortable, not easily damaged or soiled, within one’s budget, and of course, it must fit under one's table. The Yetzirah perspective pays attention to the chair's aesthetic appeal. Does it have a design and colour that matches one’s decor? From a Beriyah perspective there are no frills attached, one is chiefly aware of the abstract purpose and function of the chair, i.e., it enables one to sit down, or the engineering and mechanics behind its structure. From Atzilut, the realm of nearness to the Divine, one perceives how the chair can be used for spiritual ends. For example, it can be used at a Shabbat meal or for people to sit on during Kabbalah classes.

The perspective of the world as a skateboarder, at least as I've experienced it, is exceptional. When skating down the street one tends to notice curbs, ledges, stairs, rails, slopes, etc, - things that people ordinarily pay little attention to - and give serious thought as to their 'skatablity'. Such trivial objects take on so much meaning and offer so much stimulation. And, when there's time, one may stop at a little ledge, and enjoy skating it for an hour or so. One's otherwise mundane surroundings become a veritable playground.               

Yet, there is an inherent danger here. If a skater can only see the world through a skater's eyes he' ll inevitably damage public and private property. He must also maintain another perspective of these objects, a soberer  conventional perspective:  the intention the designers or property owners had when installing or building those things. This way one will only skate those objects which are not prone to being damaged by skating on them, or where any damage caused is clearly negligible. We may enjoy, but we must also respect...          

No comments:

Post a Comment