Time for a redesign. Not that we have to find ‘time’ and fill it with transformative initiatives, but rather, more basically, that time itself is remaking everything. To apprehend time as natality–when we witness the birth of the moment that disrupts the causal chain from the past, providing opportunity by means of discontinuity and its counterpart novelty–is at the heart of the kabbalists temporal critique. Thus, time itself affords us the luxury of a redesign. “Being” sticks us with our original purchase and acquired form, whereas the ungluing of “Being” in the temporal flux of “Becoming” (the coming to be) allows for alternations and returns.
The potency of the future in the futurist’s perception draws on the concept of temporal latency, of potential which, despite its undefined character and indeterminate nature, marches towards us with the force of an unavoidable horizon that will jolt and jostle “Being,” upsetting the status quo. The wise have eyes for this. Call it their intuitive nature; call it an insight with an emphasis on it being inward-sight. A surface scan only clarifies the present with past and future being buried behind the spectacle. Yet, if we tune into our intellectual vision, the abstract force that renders the invisible visible, we can transcend the presentation of the present and look towards the implications, hidden and absent, remote and intangible, of a possible future.
For this reason, the Talmudic adage (Tamid 32a) asserts that “who is wise? [the one who] sees that which is being born.” Birth is a transition from concealment to revelation, from potential to actual, from the indefinite to the definite, and from the future to the present. Beholding this zone of transition–a high flying power of perception–catapults a person out of an ordinary system of understanding, framed within the limits of what was already known, into an expanded state of consciousness.
Just as our reception of electro-magnetic waves are subject weather related interference, so too our peak experiences that catalyze visions of the future, far from being evenly distributed and universally available on demand, have sudden spikes, rushes triggered by unusual circumstances, amplifications and magnifications. All of the variable levels of perceptual and visual acumen point to occasional access to the true scope of natality, which, nonetheless retains a constant role as a permanent feature of reality (even the Talmudic tractate extolling the intelligence of the eye that apprehends natality–Tamid–translates as ‘constantly, always’). Even though our access is only from time to time, the dimension is always here and could be tapped into at any time.
Formalizing this thought and stamping it into Jewish observance with annual recognition, we encounter Shabbat Chazon or the Sabbath of the vision. The sanctity or alterity of this day resides in its dedication to reading and reflection on a future vision of what might be built in place of the failed projects of the past (specifically, the two Temples that were destroyed). This reserved and dedicated time to a futuristic vision is coupled with the following unique Sabbath–Shabbat Nachamu. Nachamu means consolation. The message is simple: if we had something of value (the Temples) and it is taken from us, the promise of having something given to us in the future that is even better, appeases us in the interim and consoles us in the end.
Embraced together, these two specialized times constitute a conciliatory (Nachamu) vision (Chazon) which forges a single unit, a coherent time-band that outlines the bookends of an often repeated story. As every Sabbath has been dubbed (appropriately so) an ‘island in time,’ to which we might add that it also acts as a zone of conscious spiritual intensity, a period of heightened awareness, the succession from the vision to the consolation–the vision that aims at consolation–is treaded through the ‘breaking point’ of the 9th of Av itself.
We have a presentiment about the unfolding of problems, of troubled ‘times,’ the rift in the forward flow of promising time where things get knocked back into retrograde. We regress (temporally). But this is no mere reset. We must learn from the failure–or, in the spirit of Henry Petroski’s book Success through Failure: the Paradox of Design, we can extract all that we need to triumph by studying the results of prior miscarried undertakings. Two attempts were part of the learning curve. ‘Time’ for a rebuild. In the terminology of Chassidic thought, this “descent for the sake of an ascent” stresses the care that must be taken during the descent to not internalize it has the permanent state of things. Pessimism assumes that failure is an unavoidable end in itself and forgets that ascent that follows.
All of this hinges on the value we ascribe to failure itself. Most often it is experienced as a punishment and penalty and yet, more deeply, retribution is re-assignment or reallocation of resources. The liturgical calendar, the timing of ‘public works’ projects, designates three weeks of reading and reflection upon this pending ‘gift return’ and recompense (these fall out in advance of the 9th of Av and can be more generally expressed as the precursors to the deconstruction process).
Sniffing out an illusion in the intended number of ‘pre-view’ weeks (termed 3 weeks of puranuta or ‘retribution’) proves relatively easy once we match them with the 7 weeks of consolation (nechemta) that follow. All of this hints at an important bisection of the standard model of ten powers of the soul into head and body. Hung in the gallery of the mind, the triptych of the cognitive powers finds each of its panels coinciding with a negatively charged week brimming with acerbic critique, while the emotive and behavioral spectrum spins out seven follow-up weeks of examination whereby we have to consider how we feel about the demolition of the old and the plans for the new.
Once the edifice has been razed (or raised, as the case may be–a fortunate homonym), we must apply ourselves to the redetermining of the indeterminate, to restructuring that which was deconstructed on the 9th of Av. We took it apart (and continue to do so until we rebuild it, according to the Sages of the Talmud [Yerushalmi, Yoma 5a]) because it/we had/has persistent problems but also so that we might build it better. To find a design that heads off or avoids those problems from the get go remains the big dream. Certainly having no enemies or opposition to the project would insure that there is no one to hinder or destroy it. Could it be that the first two were constructed without having everyone on board? A narrow coalition cannot trump a broad consensus. Is the final form holding out for unprecedented universality and solidarity?
We hope the future project finds favor. True to the etymological spirit of the pro-ject, we need to keep moving forward, to progress. Favor (along with its Hebrew equivalent: chein) concerns the approval of the project. We want the green light. Noting that both the word Chazon [חזון] “vision” and Nachmu [נחמו] “consolation” have the letters of chein [חן] or ‘favor’ encoded in their names, we may confirm that the preliminary approval agrees with the ex post facto assessment. Chein also expresses the concept of symmetry which further compounds ‘before’ and ‘after’ agreement, reflectivity, ‘invariance to transformation’ or self-similarity. Perhaps, the best consolation is the realization of the initial vision–when our expectations are met or exceeded.
Dual symmetry, of the sort under discussion, can be found alluded to in Zechariah [4:7] where the expression “amid shoutings of, favor [chein: symmetry], favor [chein: symmetry] to it.” This is no accidental doubling or scribal error. Rather, it manifests a forceful declaration of a twofold symmetry–a past-future symmetry, and perhaps, a theory-praxis symmetry. We could also think of them as bottom-up and top-down conjunctions or, to spin this into a 80’s pop-culture reference, as John “Hannibal” Smith, the fictitious mastermind of unconventional tactical solutions for the motley crew of four action and accident prone adventurers on the hit television show The A-Team would customary say: “I love it when a plan comes together.’
Layer upon layer of nuance reinforces this idea. Far from being pattern recognition run amok, this clustering of associations represents a rich harvesting from the semantic intertextual field. If we look at the first and last letters of both words (Chazon and Nachamu), the signs/letters that bracket them spell chanainu (“favor us” or “our symmetry”) as in Psalms/Tehillim 123:3: “Favor us [chanainu] God [the Tetragrammaton] favor us [chanainu]…,” thus presenting two stages to the approval process. In that the Divine name, sandwiched in between the requests for approval, is often taken to denote Being, it follows that there is a pre-ontological approval (nothing has yet come into existence but remains a hypothetical as our ‘favor’ is syntactically before the name that names Being) and another, ontological one–as the fulfillment of a proposition which may now be confirmed ex post facto.
Speaking of visions and visionaries, the figure most strongly aligned with the consolation from a future prospect is Avraham/Abraham. The whole plan of exile and redemption is laid out before him and although he will not immediately enjoy these things, the promises are bestowed upon his offspring. In a certain sense his entire life is an articulation of the link between the promising vision and its consolatory fulfillment, in that there is a veiled reference to this in the recorded 175 years that he walks the earth. If we add Chazon “the vision” (whose Hebrew letters also function as number and equal 71) to the word Nachamu “the consolation” (whose letters amount to 104), the total together is 175. Consequently, we have the personification of a time-span that joins these two ‘pre’ and ‘post’ perspectives together.
To begin with a vision and then to hold to it with total dedication and conviction that it will come to be and to have its realization as the conclusion of the ‘life’ of the visionary, a final seal of approval, is the basic biography of Avraham/Abraham. He is also called the “head [or first] of a believers.” On a basic level, we could affirm this in terms of the chronology of the Torah, yet on a more abstract plane, we might assign ‘firstness’ to a hierarchical order of experience. In other words, my first or leading (head) belief is the belief in the structure of promise–which might be tantamount to the promise of promise. Who will span the gap to testify that the occasion of the promised future actually led to its materialization–that what was professed to happen actually does happen? When the conditions of the promise are met on the other side of the temporal arc that up until that point could only be maintained in good faith, we feel the consolation. All of the suspense and buildup to the linking of vision to consolation is carried upon the Avrahamic/Abrahamic propensity for faith (the support when one cannot [yet] know).
Apropos of this contention and a striking substantiating of it, we can mine another mathematical analogy from our words for vision (Chazon) and consolation (Nachamu). Not only do each of these words have a value which is the summation of each of their letters, there is also a back story, a ‘recounting’ for how we climbed the ‘stairs’ to arrive at the individual letters and their corresponding numbers in the words themselves. For instance, if the letter under consideration is Dalet (whose value is 4) it was proceeded by Alef, Beit, and Gimel (whose values are 1, 2, and 3 respectively). Hence, 1 plus 2 plus 3 summarizes the evolutionary steps that climb up to 4. They are the weigh stations of progress. If we performing this operation on both of the words (Chazon and Nachamu), the result is that their eight Hebrew letters are proceeded by letters/signs who total value equals 502, the equivalent of the Hebrew expression emunah pashuta or “simply faith” [for the technically inclined: letters up Chet (8) = א,ב,ג,ד,ה,ו,ז = 28 added to letters up to Zayin (7) = א,ב,ג,ד,ה,ו = 21 and so on…]. The message of this matheme accentuates how faith gets us to the point when ‘vision’ joins ‘consolation.’
For Part Three, we will endeavor to decode other symbols that advocate for futurists studies.