Variations on a Theme

Image courtesy of the artist Yakov Yom Tov

Back in November New York Mag published an article proclaiming the Hipster era as over.
According to author Mark Greif, the two predominant values espoused by and therefore defining the Hipster are:
A. Members of Hipsteria are consumers of “Newness”. New information – whether it be about new food, new words, new fashion, new technology … – the knowledge that they are at the forefront of the knowledge frontier defines the Hipster.
B. Hipsterians are also crusaders of Rampant Individualism.
Yet somehow Hipsters engage “en masse” in an each-to-his-own culture of self-definition. Mass Individualism is born.

Resisting the old, resisting the mass, the community, the collective, resisting definition. All this begs the question. Resistance against. Ok. But what resisting for?
The force of resistance or restraint, of holding back is invaluable to creation. Such is the nature of our world.
In order for an artist to trace a line, he must exclude a whole sea of potential ink that could flood his page.
The Duality resulting from balancing the right amount of restraint with creative generosity is the natural state of our cosmos.

A visitor to the Lincoln Memorial will recognize the distinct ridges on each column by the vertical play of light and shadow along each column’s height.
So which comes first? The ridges? or the light? We can’t see one without the other.

Can we see a whole without its parts? Can we see an individual without his community? Can we perceive a community without knowing the individuals of which it is composed?

The binary or dual nature of our perception and of this world, does not only translate into the visual examples demonstrated above.
Our thought patterns program along the contrasting interaction between repeated, routine themes and variations on those themes. And therein lies the potential for change, for new decisions.
These processes are a dance between “keva” and “kavanah” as coined by the great theologian Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel.
The “keva” or the fixed, for example, the laws of Jewish lifestyle, enter into an active dialogue with “kavana” – intention.
Keva –> Inject Creativity | Personality | Intention –> Kavanah — and back again –>


A decision, by definition, is a contraction. Once taken, the decision excludes many other potential decisions. The pause between notes in a melody, the space between elements of a composition that causes them to dance in harmony … A creator must have a vision that guides those decisions. In creating ourselves, we constantly revise this vision. Identities constantly launch Beta versions. 2.0 is followed by 3.0, 4.0 …  onward and upward striving for a better self.
The Hipster revolution brought the following question to the surface: would we be compelled to recreate ourselves if the environment around us did not provide new input? What would fuel our imagination, from whence would we produce the demand for our next identity? How would we prompt the inspiration necessary to reconfigure our output or supply?
For Hipsters the most sought-after input would most frequently be derived from identities in frenetic or friction-like states of growth. Accurate in honing in on the need for new stimuli and incentives, Hipsteria’s inhabitants erred when they discounted the value of consistency in Humanity’s collective heritage, history and experience.


Without the circular whirling dance, the motion, the dynamic act that blends the joined-handed Hassidim – each blurring his unique tempo and flare into the collective whole- we cannot experience and access the expansion, the morphosis of our own individual vessel. As we unite, we empower and enable ourselves to contain ever greater decisions and embody ever more Divine potential.
Each individual contributes his own flavorful dimension, the kavanah, that sends the cycle round again, a waltz, an ebb and flow between the individual’s needs and desires of expression and G-d as manifest in the community and in our heritage.

In our acknowledgement that we are one indivisible whole  lies the refinement and beauty of all the potential creation that could ever exist. By creating this world, Hashem limited the potential for so many other worlds that we could be experiencing.

We reflect, refract, diffuse the shadow of this light, His potential creation by similarly limiting our potential actions, forming a conduit that channels our actions towards considerate, Humanist and caring decisions aligned with His will.

Action, movement, creates forms, vessels, containers. If we don’t inject ourselves into the process, a vacuum or a void will be left unfilled – a negative space open to the law of entropy – as the walls of the vessel come collapsing in, filled gradually by degenerating artifacts, potential birth replaced by potential death. If we’re not growing life, we’re killing it, and not just our own. We control G-d’s potential life and death.

Hipsterians ultimately precipitated their demise by denying the importance of the collective’s role in processing the “New” aka Potential Life.

As Mark Greif concludes:
“The hipster moment did not produce artists, but tattoo artists. It did not yield a great literature, but it made good use of fonts.”

The result of this one-sided one-dimensional monologue solo choreography – No content. Just form. No theme, just variation. No habit, just intention.
And now it’s over.


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