Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Tree of Life, the human body, and the skateboarder

'Let Us make Adam in our image and in our form'

The  above verse intimates that the human is created in the image of the Divine. In fact, every human body part corresponds to a particular spiritual energy or Sefirah:

The skull corresponds to Keter, subconscious will;
the right hemisphere of the brain relates to Chochmah, creative, spontaneous thought;
the left hemisphere relates to Binah, analysis and language;
the right arm parallels Chessed, loving-kindness;
the left arm, Gevurah, judgement, strength, and sternness;
the Torso corresponds to Tiferet, beauty and balance;
the right leg is associated with Netzach, dominance and victory;
the left leg, Hod, submission and surrender;
the genitals relate to Yesod, foundation and bonding;
and the mouth relates to Malchut, sovereignty and interface.

The first three qualities form the cognitive triad; the second three, the emotional triad, and the next three, the functional triad. In addition, the three qualities on the right side, all expansive and flowing in character, form the 'right pillar', while the three on the left, all limiting and rigid, make up the 'left pillar'. The four qualities in the middle balance the qualities on the right and left, constitute the 'middle pillar'.

The qualities are not isolated and independent but interactive and interpenetrating. And, though the number of connections and patterns are extremely complex and varied, there are four basic relations which I'd like to touch upon:

 1. the 'descent' of the cognitive triad to the functional triad;
 2. the 'ascent' of the functional to the cognitive;
 3. the inclusion of the right pillar within the left; and,
 4. the inclusion of the left pillar within the right.

1. When engaged in a practical activity such as washing the dishes or driving a car, the primary triad operating is the functional one. One bonds (Yesod) with the goal of the activity (having clean dishes), applies one's dish washing habits and skills to clean all the dishes as efficiently as possible (Netzach), and one is sensitive (Hod) to the fragility of the dishes so that one does not rough-handle and damage them. However, clearly, the cognitive faculties guide the functional so that they express themselves in the most effective ways.

2. On the other hand, when one is involved in an intellectual activity such as study, it's primarily one's cognitive triad that is engaged. Yet, one often uses his body to assist the thinking process, such as using the fingers to help count, to relate a teaching to another in order to clarify it within one's own mind, or, through experimentation and experience one's comprehension of a concept is profoundly enriched. The functional triad is thus included within the cognitive triad.

3. When one is engaged in helping another, it is the right pillar, the pillar of flowing kindness, that is prevalent. Still, one must employ judgement and self containment, the left pillar, to ensure that one doesn't squander resources or smother the recipient with generosity.

4. Conversely, when one expresses sternness, as when one must discipline children or employees, kindness must be included in order to temper the sternness so that it expresses itself politely, sympathetically, and hence, constructively. The right pillar is included within the left.              

The basic movements of the body in skateboarding can be viewed as depicting these fourfold connections between the Sefirot:

1. Crouching: the head is lowered toward the legs; the cognitive triad 'descends' toward the functional triad;

2. Jumping: the legs are raised closer to the head; the functional triad 'ascends' toward the cognitive triad;

3. Turning to the right: the left side of the body follows the right; the pillar of sternness is included within the pillar of Kindness;

4. Turning to the left: the right side of the body follows the left; the pillar of kindness is included in the pillar of sternness.  

In all the instances above, it is the torso, related to the quality of Tiferet -  beauty/balance/harmony - that allows the inter-inclusion and harmony of the qualities to occur...    

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