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WORDS: Reflections of Heschel & Abramovic

[Note: This essay was written in 2014 while studying film at Syracuse University. In one of our weekly Honors classes, we studied Abraham Joshua Heschel and Marina Abramovic. This essay reflects how the life experiences of Heschel and Abramovic resonated within my own life journey.]

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), a Polish-born American rabbi, theologian and philosopher stated, “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, to look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal, everything is incredible, to be spiritual is to be constantly amazed”. Serbian-born performance artist Marina Abramovic (b. 1946) also stated, “Happiness comes from the full understanding of your own being.” To me, Heschel’s idea of spirituality comes from the beauty of the outside world, while Abromovic’s seems more internally inspired.

My personal upbringing has taught me that our Creator speaks truth to us through the voices of our children. Although not explicitly explained what that means, I can only offer my own interpretation. Our children view the world in a way that Heschel describes above. Our children reflect back to us the world as they see it in its pure form. Their small worldview is unfiltered. They love us unconditionally by being loved unconditionally. There is no hierarchy within our households. When we sit down for our nightly dinners, although the backs of our chairs may be of different heights, our eye levels are not. Conversation at the table is not only about talking…it is also about listening…and we listen to our children.

Heschel lived in the time of WWII and he lost personal family members to the Holocaust. Abromovic grew up in a communist country while living with her overbearing mother. As an American Indian living in the world today, I couldn’t help but think of my own life experiences. My own people have endured the effects of colonialism for centuries. In spite of the historical traumas of invasions, wars, occupations, diseases and residential boarding schools; we have survived. The life experiences of both Heschel and Abromovic offer incite into the human condition while subjugated to the effects of the Holocaust, communism and familial restrictions.

At this point in my life, I am no longer a child and I am not yet an elder. I understand that the adults of today need to prepare for the seventh generation; which includes taking care of our elders, our children and our environment.

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