Monday, September 24, 2012

Something in Nothing

The art museum at BYU is named with a surprising lack of creativity:  the Museum of Art, or the MOA for short.  I don't know if they were shooting for elegance in simplicity or if they didn't want a donor attached to their name or what.  Anyways, we took a tour of the Islamic art exhibit for my Myths, Legends and Folktales class last week.  I'd been through the exhibit before , but this time we got a guide who gave us more information about the creation of the exhibit and why certain pieces were chosen.

The exhibit is entitled Beauty and Belief:  Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture.  It's a beautiful collection and this is its final week of display.  If you haven't gone yet, go.  If you've gone, go again.  If you can't go because you don't live in Provo or you don't have time, at least look around the website for the exhibit.

Bridge building and crossing is something we can definitely use with a religion and culture as under-understood (is that even a word?) as Islam is.  The exhibit is all about expression of devotion to God.  There are prayer rugs so well used there are holes worn through and ridiculously old manuscripts (8th century was the oldest I could find) of the Quran, carefully copied, some embellished beautifully with colored ink and/or calligraphy.  I loved drawing connections between Islam and my own faith.
This was one of my favorite pieces.  It's a stylized sculpture of the Persian word "heech," meaning "nothing."  Our guide explained this paradox of a dynamic piece signifying nothing.  She said the project director who selected the piece said that even in nothing there is something.  In nothing, in that void from which we remove the noise and concerns of the world, in that nothing God can touch us.

I love that interpretation.  Whether you call it meditating, praying, communing with nature, or being at one with the universe I see this same concept, and I wish I was better at it.  It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle of the world.  Work, school, homework, friends, family, world events, grocery shopping, cooking, planning, talking, hearing, watching.  I get so busy, often with inane, unimportant things.  I forget, in my haste to accomplish everything on my to-do list, the simple beauty of a quiet moment. I love the rare moments when I just sit and think.  When I really pray, not just recite a worn-out list of thanks and requests.  When I walk around the temple grounds or really think about the scriptures instead of glancing over them.  

I appreciated this reminder to create a void so that God has room in my life.  

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