Art & Science Don’t Exist

Whatever you think of generally as “nature” in the physical sense is most likely either tending toward a pantheistic or transcendentalist/deist conception. Allow me to explain.

It’s extremely difficult for most people to think about the universe as a whole. It’s difficult to think about the complexity of a single physical object, or all the ways in which it interacts with the rest of the universe, or how many of that object exist. Science is really, really complicated. We can’t conceptualize how big the earth is, let alone the sun or the galaxy. From the narrow perspective of human experience, it is especially easy and pragmatic to just ignore what we are not experiencing (i.e. the rest of the universe). That itself makes sense for the sake of sanity and productivity, and thank HaShem that’s the way He made us. On the other hand, what then happens to people who live in a predominantly man-made environment? The natural environment which houses the man-made becomes distant and strange. At this point in human development, it is almost impossible to conceive of the natural origins and make-up of our products at first glance (e.g. plastics, electronics, etc.). We obtain food unnaturally, we acquire possessions unnaturally, and most of our activities deal with systems and objects that we have created. When theology is factored in, it is even more foreign than nature. The popular conception of theology is that “God created the world” with emphasis on the past tense. There is a world, it logically came from somewhere, and the popularly religious answer is that an alien character made it. It only takes a small dose of research and thought to find that such a theology is childish and ultimately k’firah. HaShem creates existence.

On the other hand, if you’re aesthetically inclined, it’s also extremely hard to ignore the universe. After all, we live within it, we think in its terms, and we are often overwhelmed by its beauty. There is something about a sunset and the experiences it brings that cannot be accurately defined for most people, except to a certain degree in subjective art. Instead of shrinking away from nature and restricting oneself to a controlled, man-made context, it is also possible to become lost in the universe, to feel as though one’s spirit drifts effortlessly in the vastness of space or among the trees. The sensory experience of life in the untouched physical world creates the sense that there is an inexplicable consciousness within nature. Without an organized way of approaching this wonderful feeling, we may tend to assign identity to the world as a whole or in parts. This can lead to nature-worship or occult conceptions of nature. One becomes enchanted with nature in a way that is fantastical, ultimately sharing something in common with the previous perspective: when something occurs in the physical world, it is ascribed to some vague, pagan-inspired “mother nature” rather than its Creator. The thought process that reaches the transcendent is dismissed for the more tangible ideology of idolatry. Conveniently, if you make the world foreign or independent, you don’t have to make as many choices or think as much. But in truth, HaShem is beyond existence.

Since both of these conceptions (pantheism and deism) are false, we are left confused. If you expect me to come up with a convoluted resolution to replace them, I won’t. The answer has been under your nose the whole time. HaShem is the Infinite Creator. That means that the entirety of Creation, including its every detail, exists exclusively because the Infinite Creator is creating it. The Creator creates the defined with undefinable essentiality. Nature is not a super-consciousness or an alien entity. Nature is not a mess of chaotic forces or a rigid bunch of equations. Nature is not just “the outdoors” or a playground for New Age sorcerers. Pantheism is a fantasy, deism is ignorant, and the truth of Yichud HaShem is eternal. It’s the simplest truth. Whether your problem with nature is avoidant or obsessive, this solves everything. The rain storm that makes you uncomfortable as you make your way from building to building is being condensed above you with precision of form and broadly efficacious design. The crystals and spices that so mystify you are being materialized and powered with unfathomably deep simplicity and life. It’s perfectly ok to accept that. It takes a methodical change in perspective to see your reality as a unified Creation that exists because it follows from its infinite Creator.

Aesthetics and science, however you might philosophize about them, are manifestations of ahavah and yirah. Fascination with particular elements of sensory experience (which are largely appreciated for their simple beauty) stems from a unified identification with the sublime (which needs no rationalization) that has become projected into specific experiences. Beauty becomes confusing and detached when it is isolated. Everything is beautiful by virtue of its inexplicable expression of the Infinite. On the other hand, the drive to characterize and pattern the physical stems from a profound otherness. The individual, lost in a lack of ontological definition, demands vindication and order. Science becomes confusing and detached when it is isolated. Everything makes sense within its own system, as defined by the Infinite.

As we know, ahavah and yirah are two sides of an ever-spinning coin, the peak and trough of an endless oscillation. They are a circle, and without that understanding, we will hopelessly be attempting to give it sides and endpoints. Nature is that. When you use ahavas HaShem and yiras HaShem in every possible detail of your life, the universe lights up before your eyes. Your sense of what is beautiful and what is real becomes defined by that which is undefinable. Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, Chapters 1 & 2, and also the whole Torah.

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