Saturday, January 30, 2010

how do you measure?

For how do we appraise the historic significance of a period? By what standards do we measure culture? It is customary in the modern world to evaluate a period by its progress in general civilazation, by the quality of the books, by the number of universities, by the artistic accomplishments, and by the scientific discoveries made therein. As Jews, with an old tradition for appraising and judging events and generations, we evaluate history by different criteria, namely, by how much refinement there is in the life of a people, by how much spiritual substance there is in its every day existence. In our eyes, culture is the style of the life of a people. We gauge culture by the extent to which a whole people, not only individuals, live in accordance with the dictates of an eternal doctrine or strive for spiritual integrity; the extent to which inwardness, compassion, justice and holiness are to be found in the daily life of the masses.

The pattern of life of a people is more significant than the pattern of its art. What counts most is not expression, but existence itself. The key to the source of creativity lies in the will to cling to spirituality, to be close to the inexpressible, and not merely in the ability of expression. What is creative comes from responsive merging with the eternal in reality, not from an ambition to say something.
--Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Earth is the Lord's

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