31 May 2013
22 Sivan 5773
Moments of Wonder
It’s that time of year again. School is winding down. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors experience the euphoric stress of completing final exams and projects as the light of summer grows brighter. Seniors are bringing their Gann experience to a close, many of them by sharing their independent projects with our community.
Last night I attended one of our senior “showings,” two performances in our Black Box theater. These final weeks of our seniors’ time at Gann are particularly emotional because the end is nearing and we will have to say good bye and because we see evidence of the extraordinary people our students have become. With their powerful intellects, caring hearts, and creative souls on display, our seniors bear witness to the realization of Gann’s educational mission.
Artistic performances like the dancing, singing, and acting we saw last night illustrate more than the incredible talent in our student body. Through a “talk back” with the student creators of the two performances, we were able to peer behind the curtain of our students’ creative process, hearing them talk about what they learned and the choices they made.
When asked about whether there was a narrative arch to his dance choreography, one of the seniors responded with a profound message about art and creativity. “I don’t see myself as a storyteller,” he said. “What I do is create moments. I listen to the music and ask, ‘What is awesome here? What evokes emotion? What will make you think?’ I try to create something completely new, and it is that newness itself that takes you on a journey.”
The choice to choreograph a dance to the nuanced harmonies of out-of-the-box musical selections was intended to move the audience out of our comfort zones, to cause us to see differently, to take us on an emotional journey punctuated by what I think Abraham Joshua Heschel would confidently describe as moments of “wonder.”
As our student spoke with such depth and passion, I was reminded of Heschel’s description of prophetic insight in The Prophets. He writes, “What impairs our seeing is our habits of seeing as well as the mental concomitants of seeing . . . One must forget many clichés in order to behold a single image. Insight is the beginning of perceptions to come rather than the extension of perceptions gone by.”
Our students are learning to “forget clichés” and to see the world through new eyes. And, with their sparks of creativity ignited—intellectually, morally, spiritually, and artistically—they are contributing to the ongoing creation and tikkun (reparation) of the world.
As we watched them last night with the wonder, amazement, emotion, and love that so many of us felt, we join them in the unfolding of their sacred process.
Rabbi Marc Baker