Tag Archives: seth-sanders

Since I can draw while I lead a discussion, I like to draw big pictures on the blackboard as we talk, things like the Jerusalem temple or the impaled victims on Assyrian banquet hall reliefs. Seeing the physical form of a written idea helps both me and the students think about how it could play out, and keeps all of us awake. Ancient artifacts make you think about the dialectic between physical realities and the human imagination in history. I’ve taken them to Assurnasirpal’s throne room at the Met and read them Ezekiel’s description of the hybrid monster angels with their eyes closed. When they opened them the first thing they saw were real, two-ton hybrid monster angels—the winged man-bull statues that flanked the throne of the most powerful being on earth: the Assyrian king. Seeing how an ancient object would take up space in the real world can give us surprising new insights and questions.

This is true of sound as well. Having students sing part of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice or the hymn from Revelation makes them realize this stuff was performed by people with their whole bodies, and consider how texts would have been experienced. Ultimately most of our most profound ways of knowing, learning, and doing things come from senses beyond reading. But reading, writing, and thinking are in dialogue with them. They’re not things that sitting down taking notes might naturally facilitate. But if you ask the right questions of it, just a moment of seeing or singing can provoke you to think in whole new ways.