Photo Credit: NewScientist.com
By Yonatan Gordon
This present season between Passover and Shavu’ot is a good time to begin authoring your book. As we spoke about, the giving of the Torah on Shavu’ot can be considered like its publication date to the world. But instead of a one-time event in the past, we can participate in the unfolding story of creation, by penning our own stories.
In our articles, we try to hone in on the most practical elements of each subject. The question we would like to ask today, then, is how to generate interest in a book. This is a pretty common question today.
The good news is that the self-publishing revolution is upon us. Authors can go to any number of self-publishing services to get their book published and available at many of the online bookstores. Today, the question is not one of availability, but interest. How to interest readers once your book is made available for public consumption.
We’ve had fun recently “borrowing” breaking discoveries in the scientific world, for use as metaphors in our seemingly more sedate world of book publishing. This is why today we have chosen “dark matter” as our metaphor of choice (for the recent dark matter news story, please read “Scientists Find Signal in Space that Could be Dark Matter”).
While we don’t presume to play the role of a scientist (although the science writers among you are welcome to elaborate on these metaphors), there are two things we found interesting about dark matter. The first is that although astronomers cannot see dark matter directly, they can study its effects from the gravitational influence it has on matter (e.g. stars orbit around their galaxies faster than they should). The second is that dark matter is about six times more prevalent than matter.
Reader Engagement and Counting Techniques
When we reinterpret these findings within our publishing landscape, we discover some remarkable advice for budding new authors. In order to generate interest, you should author a book that can best be observed by its gravitational pull. This is a concept that we first introduced in our article “What if Technology, Just…Vanished???”, but now is a good time to elaborate on it some more. As we mentioned there, a computer will always count the “somethingness” of the numbers, whereas a person can count the “nothingness.” This is why only a person can spontaneously jump to the answer of a complex equation. Whereas a computer must travel in sequential, logical steps … a human can leap in unexpected ways.
What we didn’t mention there was that the answer for this leaping individual is still considered nothingness. While the person seems to provide the same result as the computer, this is not the case. With our dark matter metaphor, we can now add something profound: That although both the human and computer provide the same answer, the former can be considered as providing us with dark matter, while the latter is showing us some directly-observable matter.
Becoming a Bestselling Author
What do we know about this leaping individual, when he himself doesn’t know how he just leaped to the answer? Indeed, the greatest observation that we gain is the “gravitational pull” or the effect of the event. This is what we usually call “reader engagement,” or that mysterious force that so draws people to great books. Expressions like “couldn’t put it down,” it “pulled at my emotions,” “this is a book to live by” all relate to the gravitational aspect of great books.
Within the Kabbalistic paradigm, the fact that dark matter is six times more prevalent than matter is also quite curious. The relationship of six to one typically relates to the six masculine emotive sefirot (from loving-kindness/chesed though foundation/yesod), and the final feminine sefirah of kingdom (malchut) that receives from the previous six. How then does this relate to matter? If malchut only receives from the six above it, wouldn’t our metaphor be more fitting if the empty one-in-seven malchut, corresponded somehow to the empty six-in-seven dark matter?
We can even compound this question. According to Kabbalah, gravity itself is a malchut property. This is how we began our discussion. How does an author become successful? Through having a strong gravitational pull on their readers. Matters of personality, public perception, leadership potential, worldly success, all relate to the sefirah of malchut in Kabbalah. So how then is it fair to say that all the seemingly light-filled results of a successful author, relate to dark matter?
Human vs. Computer
The answer comes through returning to our human vs. computer topic from our vanishing technology article. Ideally, even though a human can leap to an answer that may take a computer hours, days, or even weeks to compute … while the results may looks the same, they really are vastly different. The answer provided by the leaping human is indeed dark matter.
Usually we think of computing in terms of zeros and ones, but in the world of quantum computing, both states can exist simultaneously. To provide an answer to the equation, but to do so with the unknowable human element. Even though it appears that this answer is either a zero or a one, in reality it is both.
This then spells the answer for our dark matter vs. matter mystery, and for our world of publishing. Why do we observe dark matter as six times more prevalent than matter? Because matter is something that everyone can observe and agree upon (i.e. malchut, the answer or end result). But the preponderance of dark matter favors the human approach over that of the computer. For the human mind, nothing exists merely through observation. If this were so, we should be able to read books on how to become a great author, and then become one. Instead, successful individuals many times find themselves writing, composing, and drawing those things that they themselves don’t fully understand. To them, it’s dark, but to everyone else, it seems the most light-filled (or directly observable) thing imaginable. The truly successful are those who have learned to count the nothingness within the somethings. The dark matter aspect within something that appears simply as matter.
We can relate our discussion to how Moses counted the silver, the different gifts brought for the Tabernacle. The inner intent of counting is not grasping (השגה), but just gazing (לאסתכלא ב’קרא דמלכא). Out of his eye he sees the true nothingness in every item that he’s counting. It is specifically with this type of counting that there resides a blessing.
Whereas dark matter seems to share a unified field (as the dark matter article suggests), we feel the separateness of this world most poignantly from matter. God has placed me on earth, in the material realm, and here, our souls feel separate from God. But the Almighty desired to make Himself a dwelling place below. The fact that He wants to place me in this lower reality is his most inner desire. So that we should turn those things that seem like somethings, back into an unknowable state of Divine consciousness.*
With regard to the counting of Moses, the question can be asked why gold was not counted, while silver and copper were? There are many different answers. Perhaps the most inner answer is that the inner vessels are of gold, while the Holy Ark, which is in the Holy of Holies, had a great deal of gold in it. But it says that the ark was what carried those who carried it; and all the more so, that it was able to carry itself. The innovation here is that the Art of the Covenant had no weight. Not just that it was beyond space, but that in addition to that, it also had no weight. For this reason gold is not counted.
There is a teaching that gold was created in the world only for the Temple. We learn from this that gold is above it all. Today physicists talk of a Higgs particle, the particle responsible for all mass. Now, just as the ark has no measure, it also has no weight.
The answer for the matter debate can be found by counting gold. It is both the most precious substance, but also the most uncountable and weightless. It is the matter that both defies and redefines our conception of what matter is all about.
* In Chassidut, this is usually explained as the difference between land creatures and sea creatures. Fish must live in the sea or die, for the sea is their life. Land creatures, too, depend on their habitat, the earth, for life. But the fact that the earth is their source of life is not nearly so apparent as the sea is for fish. Seen in this light then, the presence of dark matter is more like a sea that fills the universe than matter is. Rather than planets, stars, etc… that seem like stand-alone entities within the Universe (like land creatures on Earth), dark matter “seems to come uniformly from all parts of the sky. This indicates that the signal has one particular source and is not many different phenomena.” To complete this thought, observable matter (e.g. planets, stars) could also be seen as fish in the midst of the sea of this dark matter. Like the human that produces an equation, or an author that publishes a book, that is still more representative of dark matter (i.e. the unobservable) than it is by matter (i.e. the observed).
Excerpted and adapted from the weekly shiur (class/lesson) given 26 Adar 5773 from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh (with help from SichosinEnglish.org)