Thursday, January 21, 2010

a child's impressions

From "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers, pp. 116-117:

…In summer, my mother was a great pie maker and she had a way of holding up a pie on the fingertips of one hand while she trimmed the loose edges of crust with the other. She was doing this one day, when, in some rambling child’s conversation, I said something about “when G-d made the world.” I think I was trying it out on her. If so, the result was much better than I could have expected.

She froze with the pie in one hand and the trimming knife suspended in the other. “Somebody told you that,” she said with a severity she seldom used to me. “You picked that up somewhere. You must learn to think for yourself. You must keep an open mind and not accept other people’s opinions. The world as formed by gasses cooling in space.”

I thought about this many times. But it was not the gaseous theory of creation that impressed me, though I did not reject it. What impressed me was this it was an opinion, too, since other people believed something else. Then why had my mother told me what to think? Clearly, if the open mind was open (as I would say to myself later on, still turning over this conversation in my mind years afterwards), truth was simply a question of which opening you preferred. In effect, the open mind was always closed at one end.

The other experience also occurred in my early childhood…I stood up, on the other side, in a field covered from end to end, as high as my head, with thistles in full bloom. Clinging to the purple flowers, hovering over them, or twittering and dipping in flight, were dozens of goldfinches – little golden yellow birds with black, contrasting wings and caps. They did not pay the slightest attention to me, as if they had never seen a boy before.

The sight was so unexpected, the beauty so absolute, that I thought I could not stand it and held to the hedge for support. Out loud I said, “G-d.” It was a simple statement, not an exclamation, of which I would then have been incapable. At that moment, which I remembered through all the years of my life as one of its highest moments, I was closer than I would be again for almost forty years to the intuition that alone could give meaning to my life – the intuition that G-d and beauty are one.


  1. Rav Mordechai Gifter had the same observation, he said it says 'se'uh einecho le'marom u'reuh mi bara es eleh' - lift your eyes to the sky and see who created the stars.

    If you ask what, there is no answer, the question is who

    pc :-)

  2. Teva in gematriya = Elokeim = Mi Eileh?