Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Shout for Joy! The Plague has Passed: Biblical Insights for Life in a Post-corona Era

Mel Alexenberg's new book

The title of the book speaks to our times in the words of the Bible: 
“Go into your houses, my people, and lock your door behind you; hide for just a moment until the plague has passed, then awake and shout for joy!” (Isaiah 26: 19, 20) 

The book explores creative paths leading to success in a post-corona future that we have not known before. It draws on biblical insights for understanding the spiritual essence of personal, social, and cultural renewal in a post-digital age that will reshape life when the plague has passed. 

 A biblical model of creative process provides methods and tools for reorienting life in a new reality. This model develops awareness of the dynamic flow of divine light experienced as creative thoughts and emotions that are realized in all realms of life. 

Shout for Joy! The Plague has Passed speaks to Christians and Jews who share an abiding love of the Bible by inspiring the creation of a lively dialogue in challenging times between our emerging life stories and the enduring biblical narrative. 

 These insights for successful living after COVID-19 is conquered are derived from Professor Mel Alexenberg’s research and teaching on creative process, digital culture, and biblical consciousness at Columbia University, MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, and universities in Israel.

Biblical texts throughout the book are translated by the author from Hebrew, the original language of the Bible, into the language of postdigital culture that speaks to a generation searching for creative methods for navigating through an unknown labyrinth. 

 Dr. Gerald R. McDermott, professor emeritus at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, and author of Everyday Glory and Israel Matters, wrote when he read the manuscript for Shout for Joy!: “Wow, what a book. You have given me all sorts of wonderful ideas about God in the lockdown, and creativity that comes from God and through which God brings beauty to the world.” 

Unique Contribution 
My book offers a unique contribution to understanding how humanity will require an unprecedented response as the worldwide coronavirus pandemic draws to an end. There are no other books yet published that offer biblical insights for creatively rebooting life in the post-corona era. It is the only book that explores postdigital culture through a bible lens as it is being transformed by the pandemic. 

Introduction: The Post-corona Era is a Postdigital Age 
When we shout for joy that the plague has passed, we will find ourselves in a post-corona era that is a postdigital age that we had not known before. The introduction is based on the Wikipedia definition of “postdigital” as the humanization of digital technologies through interplay between digital, biological, cultural, and spiritual systems that is adopted from my book The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press). 

Chapter One: Creating a Different Spirit for a New Era 
Creating a meaningful life in an unfamiliar world requires a different spirit, a spirit of creative thought and action, a spirit of freedom of being open to new insights, understandings, and knowledge that illuminate all that we do. We learn these traits from Calev, with a “different spirit” (Numbers 14:24). He could see goodness in the Land of Israel while the others could not. We learn about a creative spirit from Bezalel who created the beautiful Tabernacle, the source of spiritual energies on the trek from slavery to a new era of freedom (Exodus 31:1-3)

Chapter Two: Reading Spiritual Barcodes 
We all stand illiterate before the barcode language of the digital age that only supermarket optical scanners can read. The “Tree of Life” graphic model of shared Divine and human creative processes, provides a symbolic language, a spiritual barcode, for exploring how Divine energies are drawn down into our everyday world. It presents parallels between human creativity and God’s. 

Chapter Three: Following Abraham into a Strange New World 
The life of the patriarch Abraham who walked away from his land, his birthplace, his father’s house, to a strange new world (Genesis 12: 1) can offer insights for navigating through untraveled pathways after the plague has passed. The signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and UAE and Bahrain in USA is a paradigm shift of biblical proportions where today the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity offer hopeful visions of life in a post-corona era. The attributes of the biblical personalities of Sarah, Ruth, Rebecca, Isaac and Jacob, are also explored. 

Chapter Four: Emulating Moses as He Reorients His Life 
Moses success in reorienting his life multiple times is a model for emulation as the world is rapidly changing. Moses went from life as an Egyptian prince to a shepherd in Midian, returning to Egypt to confront the mightiest ruler on earth, freeing his people from slavery, leading an unruly multitude through the desert for forty years to the gates of the Promised Land to which he was denied entry. The lives of Moses’ sister Miriam, his brother Aaron, Joseph, Deborah, and Tamar, are also presented as models for emulation. 

Chapter Five: Focusing on Creative Process for a Renewed Reality 
The dynamic flow of the creative process is demonstrated through the Bible-based “Tree of Life” ten-step model from initial insight, communication, and emotions realized together in the realm of space and time. The process is described by four events in different fields: cyberangel flight around the globe via AT&T satellites, giant ritual fringes flowing from the four corners of USA, the scientific work of America’s most honored geologist, and an acclaimed artist describing creating his painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. 

Chapter Six: Discovering God as “The Place” Everyplace 
One of God’s names in the Bible is Hamakom, meaning “The Place.” When Jacob awakened from his dream of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, he discovered that God’s presence can be experienced everyplace we happen to find ourselves (Genesis 28: 10, 18). The spiritual dimensions in places in explored from Abraham’s tent open to all, the Legolike Tabernacle, the Peace Hut Sukkah, Guggenheim Museums in New York and Spain, the Freedom Tower, COVID-9 induced changes in using space, and the Internet Cloud. 

Chapter Seven: Looking Beyond the Surface
A traditional method of Bible study is reframed for exploring the spiritual dimensions of smartphone culture where billions of people create images and narratives to share with others through social media. In all of human history, never has there been such a proliferation of images. Spiritual seeing as looking beyond an image’s surface engenders an ecological perspective, an expanded viewpoint that shifts focus from the here and now to imagining each image woven into the web of an all-encompassing whole. 

Chapter Eight: Collaborating on Intergenerational and Multicultural Creativity 
The post-corona era creates new opportunities for forging intergenerational relationships between individuals, communities, and cultures. An exemplary model is the “Legacy Thrones” project that created an aesthetic dialogue between art students and elders from the Hispanic, African-American, and Jewish communities of Miami. Valued traditions expressed through the lives of the elders were transformed into artistic statements of enduring significance through their ceramic relief sculptures collaged onto three towering thrones installed in a park facing the bay. 

Chapter Nine: Linking Personal and Biblical Narratives 
The biblical narrative is a rich and multidimensional look at an ancient world that has renewed meaning relevant to emerging into a new post-corona world. People of all faiths can gain opportunities to link their emerging life stories to the enduring biblical narrative by Bible blogging their lives. Exemplary Bible blog posts that reveal the spectrum of divine light in everyday life can serve as models for discovering fresh insights for seeing the spiritual dimensions of each person’s or couples’ storyline.

Chapter Ten: Learning for an Unknown Future 
The emergence of fresh directions in innovative areas of learning reshaping global culture that we had not known before are examined. Effective modes of on-line learning that developed during the COVID-19 lockdowns that carry over into the post-corona era are evaluated. Realms of learning that weave together issues of theory and practice in a post-corona era are explored from an autoethnographic perspective. 

About the author 
Professor at Columbia University, research fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, head of the art department at Pratt Institute, America’s leading art college, and dean at New World School of the Arts, University of Florida’s arts college in Miami. In Israel, professor at Bar-Ilan University and Ariel University, and head of Emunah School of the Arts in Jerusalem.

Author of thirteen books and more than 150 articles, book chapters, papers, and blogs. Some are presented below. 

Through a Bible Lens: Biblical Insights for Smartphone Photography and Social Media (HarperCollins Christian Publishing), The Future of Art in a Postdigital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press), Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Art, Science, Technology and Culture (Intellect Books/University of Chicago Press), Aesthetic Experience in Creative Process (Bar-Ilan University Press in Israel), LightsOROT: Spiritual Dimension of the Electronic Age (MIT and Yeshiva University Museum), and in Hebrew Dialogic Art in a Digital World (R. Mass Publishers, Jerusalem)


Book Chapters 
“Postdigital Relationships between Digital and Hebraic Writing,” Handbook of Digital Writing and Rhetoric (Routledge), and chapters in four books published by National Art Education Association: “From Science to Art: Integral Structure and Ecological Perspective in a Digital Age, Interdisciplinary Art Education: Building Bridges to Connect Disciplines and Cultures, “Semiotic Redefinition of Art in a Digital Age,” Semiotics and Visual Culture: Sights, Signs, and Significance, “Space-Time Structures of Digital Visual Culture: Paradigm Shift from Hellenistic to Hebraic Roots of Western Culture,” Inter/Actions/Inter/Sections: Art Education in a Digital Visual Culture, “Legacy Thrones: Intergenerational Collaborations in Creating Multicultural Public Art,” Community Connections: Intergenerational Links in Art Education

Journal Papers 
“Art with Computers: The Human Spirt and the Electronic Revolution” The Visual Computer: International Journal of Computer Graphics, “Postdigital Consciousness: A Paradigm Shift from Hellenistic to Hebraic Roots of Western Civilization,” Archithese: International Thematic Review of Architecture, “Ancient Schema and Technoetic Creativity,” Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research, “Cyberangels: An Aesthetic Peace Plan for the Middle East,” Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, “Wright and Gehry: Biblical Consciousness in American Architecture,” Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education. 

Articles and Blogs 
I have written regularly for The Times of Israel since 2015. See my articles at The Times of Israel. I blog at Through a Bible Lens, Global Tribute to Rembrandt, and Bible Blog Your Life

My artworks exploring biblical themes, digital technologies, and global systems are in the collections of forty museums throughout the world including: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio; University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington, Kentucky; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Midwest Museum of American Art, Elkhart, Indiana; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel; Jewish Museum in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic; Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna, Austria; Malmo Art Museum, Malmo, Sweden; Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Art Museum of The Hague, The Hague, The Netherlands; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; Museum of Contemporary Art, Caracas, Venezuela; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, Canada; Queen Victoria Art Museum, Tasmania, Australia

269 Ahuza St. Palace, Ra’anana 4355741 Israel,, phone +972-52-855-1223 

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