Word: Maqom


WORD: Maqom: A standing place,
Original Word: מָקוֹם, Noun Masculine
Transliteration: maqom
Phonetic Spelling: (maw-kome')

I have been reading this book about the history of space for what feels like forever. It's called the "The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace" by Margret Wertheim. It's taken me so long because I read it at night before I go to bed (when I'm not watching TV.) I think some people even have TVs in their bedrooms; we'd never defile our room like that of course. No, I like my self-righteousness with headphones and a 9-inch screen 10 inches from my face... It's the same thing... I've saved myself a little more space.

Anyway, the book. 

It's about the history of space in art and technology. Art during the middle ages reflected the ideas and cultures of the time just like they do today. Back then, the artwork was predominately two-dimensional and depicted a limited number of scenes from the Bible. However, things started to get a little heated when math got involved, and artists began rendering images in a three-dimensional space (WHOA! I know right?!). Yes, the Church excommunicated people and threatened their lives for this! Why? Well, when you depict things in a three-dimensional space you, by consequence, impose a perspective on the subject of the artwork. The artist shows the subject from their point of view. This was a problem because the only point of view worthy of art to display in the sacred spaces of cathedrals was "God's" which is to say The Church. By nature, a point of view is limited, mortal, not divine. It is a perspective of reality, not reality in its totality.

This is why I love the word Maqom.

I know... I lost you there right? What does this have to do with an obscure Jewish word for a physical place? 

Well, this word "maqom" gets used in the Talmud (Ancient Jewish book of ceremonial law), not just about a physical space but sometimes as a reference for God. There was a belief that the omnipresent, boundless, timeless Divine Reality could, at the same time, be the incarnational, limited, bound-in-space-time presence. The limitless and limited at the same time... As if God could actually be more Human.

Humans are limited, time-bound, fragile and take up space. The assertion that God would take on this limitation and share our perspective, our point of view is just as dangerous as it was when artists in the middle ages proposed the idea. However, this is the truth that breaks the whole thing open. God is with us and IS us in time and space... God in our limitations, God in our weakness, God in our strength.

Space is so mysterious. It is the most dominant stuff of the universe. Most of our atoms are space. The cosmos is almost entirely dark matter. Dark matter is space. So very little fills the universe that is not space.

I like to think sometimes that space is just another way of saying God. That which is in and around and through everything. The intangible and human as well. Flesh and blood.

What new things will we learn about God and space when we consider what God looks like in the smallest reaches of cyberspace? Is there room for a soul in there? Could it even fit in the 10 inches from my face as I lay in my bed?