Theme 1 : Artwork 1

Reflection Title: 
Hidden Wholeness
Reflection Content: 

Like Rodin’s Thinker, we ponder. In an encounter with beauty rising to greet us along a pathway or around a corner, in a piece of music, in the face of a loved one or stranger, we ponder. In those singular moments holding a newborn babe in our arms when the past and future come so near, we ponder. In the love of another, the way the world brightens in love’s new light we ponder. And, perhaps, we are forced to ponder when we sit at the bedside of a dying mother or father, child or friend, struggling to hold the mystery of what is unfolding, drawing near as life ebbs away with a suddenness beyond imagining. “There is in all things a hidden wholeness,” so sings the poet, the artist, the scientist, the thinker. We delight in it. It frightens us. Sometimes we hear its call and flee even as it rises to greet us. Sometimes we hear its call and move closer.

Story Title: 
Glory and Grandeur
Story Content: 

When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars You fixed firm,
“What is man that You should note him,
and the human creature, that You pay him heed,
and You make him little less than the gods,
with glory and grandeur You crown him?
You make him rule over the work of Your hands.
All things You set under his feet.”

—Psalm 8:4-7

Contemporary Story Title: 
To Wonder
Contemporary Story Content: 

Even for Albert Einstein (1879-1955), one of the world’s most influential theoretical physicists, the meaning of life was a mystery. Yet, Einstein had an extraordinary curiosity for the understanding of science, and profoundly affected the study of physics and cosmology. He published his general theory of relativity in 1916, and won the Nobel Prize in 1921. In one of his essays, “An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man,” Einstein offers his take on humanity. 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious—the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with the awareness of—and glimpse into—the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.”

—Albert Einstein, (1879-1955). “An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man.”

Artwork Title: 
A Visceral Struggle
Artwork Content: 

The Thinker, (Le Penseur) exists in about twenty-eight original castings and is considered Auguste Rodin’s most famous work. In 1880, Rodin was commissioned to design a bronze door depicting Dante’s “Divine Comedy” for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The artist chose images from Dante’s “Inferno” as the main theme of his work, The Gates of Hell. Reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, Rodin’s Gates depict the second circle of hell. The Thinker sits at the tympanum of the doors, a recessed area between the lintel and the arch. Rodin was inspired by Michelangelo’s remarkable male sculptures, however, his work does not share the idealization we often see in Renaissance representations of male heroes. Rather, Rodin expresses the enormous struggle that often accompanies deep contemplation and the way it is expressed through the body. Here is a man twisted and crouched on a rock, viscerally engaged in trying to reach the depths of human understanding. The Thinker embodies the poet-artist absorbed in deep contemplation about humanity. He invites us to join a long tradition of contemplation, stretching from Virgil to Rodin’s contemporary, Vigny.

Question Title: 
What does it mean to be human?
Question Content: 

Every life is a miracle of miracles. . . . And with each birth, the world is itself . . . created anew and given as a gift to this new human being to be his [or her] life, path, and creation.
—Alexander Schmemann, (1921-1983)

Notice the posture of this thinking man. Where do you do your best thinking? On a walk, on your commute to work, in the privacy of a quiet space, while rocking a child to sleep? Take a moment right now to ponder. Do your deepest thoughts come when you feel most fully alive or when you are in the midst of struggle? Or perhaps they come when you are with a loved one? Can you recall the thoughts that move through your mind and heart at those times?

Music Content: 

Ad offertorium: Ab aeterno ordinata sum
Proverbs 8:23–31 (KJV)
From Selva moralee e spirituale (1641), a large collection of liturgical music, composed and published by Claudio Monteverdi (1577–1643) during his tenure as maestro de cappella at St. Mark’s in Venice.


O quam mirabile est 
Plainchant of Hildegard of Bingen, 1098–1179, abbess and mystic. This selection is from a collection of lyrical liturgical songs that Hildegard called her Symphonia harmoniae caelestium revelationum (Symphony of the harmony of heavenly revelations). 


Strange Universe
“Strange Universe.” Mahogany Rush, led by Frank Marino. Strange Universe, 1975. Track 10. 

Image Thumbnail: 
Image Summary: 

The Thinker, 1880-82. Auguste Rodin, 1840–1917. 

Story Audio: 
Contemporary Story Audio: 

U Encounter Online Exhibition

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