This World = Camera Obscura. Next World, Right Side Up.

When inside it is inky dark and outside there is bright light, and if there happens to be a small chink in the obscuring darkness through which some light can enter, well then life gets a bit interesting. The image of what is outside will filter into the room, but in an inverted fashion. Up will be down and down will be up. You will see a tree on your wall, but an upside down one. That is the facts of what is often known as the Camera Obscura.

A brilliant artist using this method Abelardo Morell [1] uses this technique to blend upside-down outdoor panoramic scenes on right-side-up indoor ones for images that are both haunting and mystifying as you try to tease apart what belongs where. He also rights the images, as do our modern day camera, to give you right-side panoramas in some of his photos.

In the Talmud (Bava Basra) there is the story of Rabbi Yehoshua’s son who had what we might call a near-death experience. He was sick, his soul left his body, and then he was revived. Upon his revival, his father wanted to know what he saw during his out-of-body experience. And the patient said, “Olam Hafuch Ra’eesee – an upside down world I saw.” ‘Those who sit at the dais here in this world are relegated to back seats there. Those who are downtrodden here are placed up front there. Up is down and down is up.’ To which Rabbi Yehushua responded, ‘you saw with clarity, ‘tis true.’

A person living in a dark room with very little light coming in will think all of the world is upside down. That person, on emerging from the dark room, will be flabbergasted to find the actual objects that cast the image are stationed right-side-up on the outside. We, living here in Olam Hazeh, in the temporal world, are sitting in a dark world, where spirituality comes sneaking in through chinks in the physicality. Therefore, all we see is inverted panoramas (unless we have outfitted ourselves with special lenses to right-side-up the images). In the next world, where all is light and spirituality, that is where the right-side up actuality is found. That is why in this world we often value aggrandizing pontificators and shun the plain G-d fearing simpleton. Upside down views we have, until we will be surprised to find out that in realms of light, those who we shun here might be the kings there. After all, isn’t that the story of King David, the upright man, not valued in his generation, but beloved by G-d?


[1] see the upside down one at

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/05/camera-obscura/morell-photography

To read another explanation of the upside world, read Rabbi Ciner here:

http://www.neveh.org/ciner/parsha58/shmini.html

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About jewishspectacles

Jewish Spectacles-the kind you look through, not the kind you create!
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7 Responses to This World = Camera Obscura. Next World, Right Side Up.

  1. JG says:

    I really enjoy reading your posts– I wish you would post more often!

    • Thank you! And it is to your credit that I sat me’self down and put up another post today. Shabbat Shalom!

      • JG says:

        so glad! I’ve read it now a few times over– lots of food for thought, as usual. but, I am confused by the last part about rectifying a flaw in our nature– what do you mean if we set a sin wrong we can undo the past? don’t you mean set it right?

      • JG says:

        I posted a comment the other day but it looks like it didn’t go through 😦
        so glad to see your new post! I’ve read it several times– lots of food for thought, as usual.
        I don’t think I understand what you mean that we set a sin wrong by rectifying a flaw– it seems like it would be setting a sin right by rectifying a flaw?

      • It did go through…I just didn’t get a chance to respond until now. If you don’t believe time is linear, by all means, you can undo the past by the future. Easiest way to understand it, as my father would explain it to us, was the way movies used to be made. You had the whole film in the editing room. The beginning of the movie, the middle and the end. All could be spooled at the same time and did not have to go sequentially. And some parts of the film could get cut, spliced…and many pieces ended up on the editing room floor, to be swept away and never put into the finished product.

  2. JG says:

    yes, the idea of nonlinear time makes lots of sense to me. & the movie reel example is a great one to explain it! both that time can run parallel & the possibilities of many many different movies from one reel of film.
    I meant that “set the sin wrong” confused me– it seems like one would need to set a sin “right” in order to rectify it. otherwise, it remains as an uncorrected sin/flaw, no?

  3. There are sins that are set “right” by the original sinner. There are those who sin and cannot set it right in their generation. Example, King Saul — he left Agag alive…and his great grandchild had to set it somewhat “right”. However, we have a concept that when repenting sincerely, “sins are converted into merits”. Another way to understand it — genetic disease research which is being explored — where the faulty issue is either undone or somehow reprogrammed to be set right. So we have Adam’s sin. He regretted it, to be sure, but couldn’t undo it. Can we, if we surmount that basic human erroneous desire to outsmart G-d, undo that sin? And I argue that yes, that is what we can do, with this concept of non-linear time.

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