Questions from the Whirlwind: Temples and Monuments
Fulbright Fellowship in Photography
The story of Job deals with one of humanity’s most fundamental questions: why does random violence befall the innocent? Job, his life in shambles and his body broken, asks this very question to God. In response, God provides only more questions, vast and unanswerable in their strangeness:
Have the gates of deep darkness been revealed to
you? Does the rain have a father? From whose womb
does the ice come forth? Can you bind the chains of
the Pleiades, or shake off the stars at dawn?
These questions serve as metaphor for what has troubled theologians for millennia: the unknowable nature of God, of the universe itself. And yet the questions, with all their metaphysical potency, illuminate a profoundly human need: the search for a sense of connectedness. With each other, with our world, with our universe, and with our rich and varied understandings of the divine: all of these facilitate the search for a Whole that suggests something larger than the atrocities of our (or anyone’s) time.
How many ways have we all tried to answer these questions? We build temples, synagogues, churches, and mosques. We stand stones toward the stars and arrange rocks in the wilderness. We dig caves in which to pray, hoping to step off the porch and into the Creation, into God’s vastness. And I have to wonder if our monuments to the divine serve not so much as receptacles for answers, but rather as symbols for the beauty and mystery of the unknowable. If we can for a moment feel ourselves as both infinitesimally small against the edges of the universe, yet inexplicably connected to it, perhaps the calamity of this world seems a little less large, if no less real.
The Questions from the Whirlwind have guided, informed, and greatly transformed the images I created in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Turkey over the duration of my work as a Fulbright fellow. But I have made no attempt to create literal relationships between the questions and the photographs. My intent has been to discover images that respond to the questions not as answers, but as partners in celebration of mystery and grace.