Cognitive Pearl #084 Sivan 13, 5775 May 31, 15 Poetry & Cognition





My previous post touched on the integration of poetry and artistic expression into our work as healers, teachers, and professionals of every stripe. Of course it is absolute hubris to think that art needs some sort of ‘scientific validation’ or in the lexicon of contemporary Orthodox Judaism, a ‘teudat kashrut’; humanity has soared out of its most horrible depths on the wings of poetry and art well before a bunch of psychological hotshots started poking around with brain scans and computers.

As a yeshiva bochur however poetry has a unique place beyond other artistic forms. In spite of the often maligning characterizations of the yeshiva bochur, what outsiders often don’t appreciate about us is our love of precision. Whether we’re arguing over who bears responsibility for a wayward ox or the correct amount of cayenne pepper in a cholent, we will go to the mat to get to the truth. We want our ideas, to be clean, concise, and free of dross.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that poetry’s exacting demands of beat, rhythm, meter, rhyme and structure should mean so much to this yeshiva bochur. The ethereal ideas of great poetry brings me into communion with what really truly is; nothing less and nothing more. In the poem lies the essential truth, a truth so miniaturized, rarified, and refined that it can take me by the hand and schlep me with my big American ego into its beauty.

With that in mind, I share one of my favorite poems about how we can heal each other. It’s written by Hafez, a Persian mystic, who appeared to have appreciated the terrible loneliness that still challenges us to this day. 

With That Moon Language

Admit something: 

Everyone you see, you say to them,

“Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud;


Someone would call the cops.

Still though, think about this,

This great pull in us

To connect.

Why not become the one

Who lives with a full moon in each eye

That is always saying,

 With that sweet moon language,

What every other eye in this world

Is dying to