BookMooch Journal: Thin Places

Namaste, photograph by Flickr user Kim Pierro

Namaste, photo by Kim Pierro. Click image to see this photo's Flickr page.

I recently contributed to the BookMooch Journal Thin Places. My entry was the word Namaste.

Namaste has a lot of different translations. My favorite is "The light within me salutes the light within you." This particular translation was used by the Reverend Tom Honey in this talk for the 2005 TED Conference. His speech, titled "How could God have allowed the Tsunami?", calls into question our Western idea of theodicy, the notion that God is in charge and everything happens according to a divine plan. He counters this view with the suggestion that every creature contains divine light as part and parcel of their existence. (Do yourself a favor, take twenty minutes, and listen to his talk. His warm, soothing voice alone is worth the time.)
Live Oak Quaker Meeting House, by James Turrell
Live Oak Friends Meeting House, designed by James Turrell.
Artist James Turrell has also drawn influence from this idea of internal light. Turrell's upbringing included education in Quaker spirituality. The Quaker belief system cherishes inner light as the receptacle and source for divine understanding. (How interesting that the disparate Quaker and Hindu faiths should include this same idea at their core.) On his early experience with the Quaker society, Turrell says,

My grandmother used to tell me that as you sat in Quaker silence you were to go inside to greet the light. That expression stuck with me. ...Telling a child to go inside "to greet the light" is about as much as was ever told to me. But there is an idea, first of all, of vision fully formed with the eyes closed. Of course the vision we have in a lucid dream often has greater lucidity and clarity than vision with the eyes open. The fact that we have this vision with the eyes closed is very interesting. And the idea that it's possible to actually work in a way, on the outside, to remind one of how we see on the inside, is something that became more interesting to me as an artist.

You can go here and view clips about Turrell and his work from the PBS' excellent Art:21 series.