Every once and a while my mind is confronted with a piece of information that I really didn’t see coming.
Like this past Saturday—hanging out in the mall while my wife and daughter shopped, I picked up a book on sale entitled “Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time and Light”.
In the very beginning of the book, the author Leonard Shlain says that, “Revolutionary art and visionary physics are both investigations into the nature of reality.” He further postulates that, “…the radical innovations of art embody the preverbal stages of new concepts that will eventually change a civilization. Whether for an infant or a society on the verge of change, a new way to think about reality begins with the assimilation of unfamiliar images. This collation leads to abstract ideas that only later give rise to a descriptive language.”
This statement gives rise to the next idea which goes like this: In order to learn something new, we need to first imagine it—which literally means to “make an image” of it. In other words, in order for you and I to share a vision about something, we both need to see this something in our minds eye. Yet, how many times have you thought you were on the same page as someone else, only to find out later that you were not even in the same state, thought and vision wise.
Shlain also makes a comment in the first part of his book which I not only found very interesting but which also got me to thinking a thought I had never entertained before. In describing how humans go from images to abstract thinking using words he mentions that the very first job Adam was given after he was created by God was to name the animals. And that really got me to thinking and to begin writing this entry.
Ever since childhood I have known the story of Adam and Eve. After “becoming” a Christian, I often read this story in Genesis and still fully believe in its substance and mystery. Yet Shlain’s book did a double-take on my mind and I began to think about Adam and his creation in a way that I had not ever imagined.
I had always assumed that Adam was created as an adult, but what really do I have to base this on. I had never thought about what that assumption entailed. Did he just automatically know how to walk and talk. Where did his language skills come from and from what memory bank did he bring forth the names for all the animals.
We all know about the sperm and the egg. We come into this world as infants and spend years and years accumulating the skill sets we need to function in society. From the breast to the bottle to the knife and fork covers many, many years of nurturing and development. But it would seem that Adam had it all right from the very beginning. And not that I doubt that it is above God to begin humanity with a fully formed and functional creature who walks and talks right from the get go. It is just that I never really thought about it before.
As I pondered this the other day, I somehow wandered into thinking about savants—you know those people who can play the piano beautifully without ever having been taught. Or the “Good Will Hunting” type of mathematical genius that can’t be ascribed to taking endless classes in school.
I realize that this is a murky area—savant’s are generally out of balance and lack many social skills but the concept of having some sort of knowledge, without ever having lived or learned it—much like Adam must have had—is at this point in my life very intriguing.
This thought is also somehow connected to the process of imagination. I can play the piano somewhat, not because I have learned it but because from my first meeting was captivated by its sound and did not allow myself to be intimidated by it. I can see notes fitting together and to this end can amuse myself for hours with a well tuned baby grand or upright. I am well aware that this is a “gift” and that many people I have known would not put their fingers to the keys unless they had some written music in front of them.
When I go to play an instrument or drive a car, I have a memory of having done this or that before and this memory gives me the added confidence to believe that I can do it again.
But what about Adam in the beginning—what did he remember at that very moment of creation/awareness. It is hard to say but is an interesting idea to push around for a few days.
I remember hearing a Jewish fable about how what we affectionately call the nose-scoop was created. At the moment of birth, according to my memory of the tale, the infant knows all the mysteries of the universe because he or she has been with God. It is at this point that an angel touches the child at the lip and in so doing creates that indentation and erases the child’s memory banks. Maybe Adam was allowed to retain all the stuff that was in his memory and this is how history as we know it began.
As you can probably tell—I could go on and on in this same vein but for today, that is about all I have left. I am always grateful for anything that perks me up and gets me thinking and the first few pages of this book have been a motherlode to me.
Enjoy your ride today—I am certainly on a nice one myself.