What if the Universe couldn’t be created unless God got out of the way? Among the mystical Jewish teachings of Kabbala is a fascinating creation story first taught by Isaac Luria. The part of the story called Tzimtzum teaches that Ein-Sof (The Endless one, The Unlimited One, or God) withdrew from the universe—which had contained only “Him”—so that an “Other,” an independent creation, could occur, and with it freely acting humans. Elements of Luria’s creation myth seem to correspond to the modern scientific description of creation based on the “Big Bang” theory. It all made me wonder what an outside observer would see if he watched a play shaped on the Tzimtzum creation story. Maybe this:
Ein-Sof and the Impossible Performance
It was impossible of course.
There was no stage.
There were no actors, no props, no lights.
And it goes without saying, no audience.
And no wonder.
There wasn’t room for any of it.
The Endless One occupied all the space
(if even space could be said to exist).
And it would all take time
—which didn’t exist either.
Then (if we can use a word so tied to time),
Something new existed,
and it’s impossible to say what started it.
Some say the Endless One stepped back,
and quit taking up all the…well…“space”
so that there was room for it to happen,
and he made time at the same…uh…time.
But some say, no,
space and time just popped out of nothing,
and that The Endless One had never existed.
(Or if “He” had, that He was created by humans
just as much as humans were created by him.)
At first, the new something was tiny and opaque
but in an just seconds it was a great stage,
—maybe not infinitely large,
but no one would ever find the back curtain.
Next, in the great, dark space of the stage,
came hot suns,
not ten or twenty, but a million
—no a billion
—no hundreds of billions!
Then, for billions of years—if we can use the word year—
The stage grew beyond all imagination.
and the suns were so far back on the stage
that they were just bright dots.
At last, one sun appeared nearer the front of the stage.
And even nearer the front appeared a blue ball.
After another billion years or so,
actors appeared on the ball.
They weren’t weren’t much at performing—
they couldn’t speak or even think.
They were just one-celled things and tiny, shelled creatures.
But then came some with fins and later others with feathers or fur,
and finally some with smooth, soft skin and big brains
—real actors one could hope.
But they had no script.
What would the actors say?
And how should they move on the stage?
Where was the director?
they mumbled and stammered through many scenes.
At last, they spoke a few words,
“fruit,” “eat,” “ water,” “ cold,”
then after what seemed a very long time,
“home,” “warm,” “us,” “love.”
There were no rehearsals and, with no script,
they had to make up their lines as they performed.
Eventually an audience gathered,
though it was often hard to tell the audience from the cast.
Some good things happened.
The scene where they learned to plant corn went well.
So did the first time they etched symbols on stones.
Other scenes were filled with bickering among the actors.
“Those words cannot be allowed in our play,” said some;
“That’s my stage position—get back where you belong,” one would say;
while others whispered to eachother
about the offensive skin color of some of the actors.
Sometimes scenes and even whole acts were wasted
while the actors literally murdered each other!
And when that happened it was usually a long time
before a more peaceable cast took the stage.
Recent perfomances have shown some promise.
Actors have cleaned up the messes left from past performances,
and, now and then, lines are eloquent, even meaningful.
Some of the actors have been very kind to those
hurt in earlier scenes—
and it didn’t seem to be an act.
But others have heaped contempt on those suffering injury.
And recently, a few lead actors seem to have lost
the capacity for rational thought
with the result that their lines,
though provocative, are mostly nonsense.
Some in the audience seem to love the gibberish
but most wonder if some sort of madness has touched the characters
and might spread like a plague through the cast and the audience.
Plenty of performers are troubled by the course of the play.
At one side of the set some can be heard
pleading for help from someone apparently offstage,
variously addressed as Allah, Eternal One, or God.
On the other side of the stage are a few whispering,
“Anyone hoping for a director to show up is a fool,”
and, “We are on our own here.”
The critics are as divided as the cast and the audience.
Many are dismayed at such a wreck of a performance.
“That’s because it’s ridiculously extemporaneous,” comes from some critics.
“What do you expect with no director?” from others.
But some who believe The Endless One was the source of the play
think that the final act will soon begin,
and the purpose of production will at last become clear.
Still others are optimistic that the creative freedom of the actors
will somehow produce a harmonious finale.
Of course, the critics and the audience
can see no more than what is happening on the thin, front edge of the stage.
They seem to forget—or they never knew— how big the stage really is.
For all anyone knows,
millions of light years farther back on the stage,
thousands of other performances have already taken place
on other blue balls near other suns.
Maybe on one of those blue balls
enough actors have improved their performances
that intelligence and order now grace the scenes.
From this observer’s point of view
—whether the Endless One is involved or not—
it seems to be taking an absurd amount of time, space and practice
to arrive at a decent performance
…at least if you want a happy ending.