I Am An Idiot By Daxson Hale: 99 Most Beautiful Names

So far, I have not been very dedicated in my personal quest to become more cultured and intellectually-awake. I am easily distracted and actually pretty lazy. If you read my previous piece, you know a little about what inspired me to want to change. Of course, wanting to change and actually changing are two completely different creatures. Since I haven’t been seeking out opportunities to be enlightened, these opportunities have not, of course, stopped to knock at my door. I’m also a bit of a procrastinator and on top of being busy with schoolwork and social life, I’ve found a few too many excuses for not going in search of artistic and intellectual experiences.

Today, however, I was walking through the Harold B. Lee Library on campus. I noticed a poster for an art exhibit and, for some reason, my feet brought me to the Special Collections area to see the display. This is very unlike me, since I tend to follow the masses with my head down thinking about how cool my shoes are.

I found myself at the entrance to the exhibit. Nothing amazing struck me, nothing big and spectacular was on display; just a few glass sculptures on white pedestals. The exhibit is called “99 Most Beautiful Names” by Andrew Kosorok, an artist and a sculptor who specializes in stained-glass art in the traditional Western style. “99 Most Beautiful Names” is a reference to the Qur’an, which states that God is called by 99 names which describe His attributes. There are currently eight of Kosorok’s sculptures on display. Also featured are a slide-show of Islamic calligraphy and a beautiful 18th century Qur’an in a glass case. Not many of these 99 names have yet been completed; of these, seven were on display: “The Birth”, “Inspirer of Faith”, “Reliever”, “Greatest”, “Compeller”, “Victorious”, and “Thou Art the Voice of the Lord, and His Trumpet”, as well as one entitled “99 Names” as an introductory piece.

Kosorok, according to his own summary posted in the exhibit, stated:

“My personal response to each Name, a synthesis of research and discussion with members of Sunni, Shi’a, and Sufi communities, is sculpted with cold-worked flat glass, a traditionally Occidental medium. The sculptures are tangible records of my personal struggle against prejudice and ignorance, and allow me to share my journey towards understanding with others.”

Kosorok speaks mainly of ignorance and prejudice when it comes to religion but the same principles must apply to all aspects of life. His undertaking of this project resonated with me in particular because the “personal struggle” of which he speaks is not all that different from my own quest to become more enlightened and aware, though I was approaching the change I desired through art, literature, and music, while he looked at man’s deepest-held beliefs and then turned them into art. When looking at this exhibit I was touched with a sense of reverence for Muslims’ regard for God. Kosorok’s diligent inquiry and search for understanding within the feelings and reverence applied to these Names and attributes, to the Qur’an, and to God Himself resonated deeply. I find it incredible that I am so ignorant, along with most Americans, to the beliefs and practices of Islam ( whose members make up nearly one-fourth of the population of the world). I know I don’t know enough about their religion. I know I probably should have done more research and study before writing about how I believe we should all be more aware of others’ beliefs and chastising every ignorant person for their stupidity. I am an idiot, after all. Most of what I know about Islam (and I’m assuming most Americans know about as much as I on this subject) is that they pray a lot, they worship Allah, some of them have beards, and some of them are terrorists. That is sad. Let’s look at Christianity with that same level of depth: Christians pray a lot, they worship God, some of them have beards,, and some of them are terrorists (for example, the Crusades, Irish rebels in England in the 80’s and 90’s, etc.). It’s amazing how much we have in common.

In the news is this man, Reverend Terry Jones, who planned to hold a Qur’an-burning ceremony on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center. Thankfully, he’s now announced that his bonfire will be cancelled “based on assurances” [false ones, I might add] “that a planned Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York would be moved” according to a CNN article. However, I still think it’s crazy that this level of “Christian” zealotry exists. “Allah” is merely the Arabic word for God. Arabic Christians use the same word in their worship services. It’s the same God we worship. I don’t know if Reverend Jones has read the Qu’ran, most people don’t know that it speaks of what we conceive of as traditionally Judeo-Christian figures, such as Adam, Enoch, Noah, David and Solomon, Moses, and even Christ himself. Would this knowledge make a difference to Terry Jones? Maybe. Maybe not. But I feel that once we make an effort to understand even the most basic beliefs of others, we will begin to realize that world religion is a tapestry. Every thread is important to the rest as part of a whole.

Reverend Jones probably has the best of intentions. At least I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. He also has the constitutional right to do whatever he wants to the Qur’an. But, in my personal opinion, he is an idiot just like me, except much more misled. If you believe that Muslims are so dangerous, why are you trying to piss them off? When there’s a man with a gun to your face, you don’t comment on how silly his jacket looks with his shoes, and you especially don’t try and start his jacket on fire to make your point.

I applaud Mr. Kosorok for conveying not only his own respect and reverence for God through his sculptures but also his yearning to understand another faith, another people and culture. I encourage everyone who can to view the exhibit before it is taken off display next week.

This exhibit really did inspire me. It inspired me to learn more about Islam and other religions. It inspired me to open my eyes to the beauty in other parts of the world. I’m also more motivated now than ever to continue my search for depth in my life; however, from now on I won’t ignore the source of all good things: human spirituality and the individual’s quest for personal expression. I’m working now on writing some poetry of my own (which will be published here shortly) but I’m having troubles. Making art is... an art. I’m sure my poetry will be ridiculous. Stay tuned.

For more information on the “99 Names” exhibit, see here.
For an interview with Mr. Kosorok, read this.
And for Mr. Kosorok’s own feelings on this work, click here.

Daxson is currently majoring in television and oreos at Brigham Young University. Yeah, he's double-majoring.


Scott said...

Great article!! I love your writing.
I'm also trying to become a more informed and educated citizen of the world. There are still several things even here locally that I'm trying to get a better grasp of. There's always another side to each story and something more to learn.
Good luck with the art!

sam_theman said...

Daxson, I do of course realize that our usual activities are not exactly on your list of ways to get better, but I think we should add some things that are of a more enlightening value than camp rock 2. Also I think I will go see the exhibit thank you sir.

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