Behind Creation another story lurks, explains, complicates. The first question of the world is Form. The question does not begin with “what,” but with “how.” What philosophical and theological theories may gloss when considering ex nihilo as a creative crux is that Nothing must first exist for creation to occur in it. Tzimtzum, in midrashic and kabbalistic thought, is this story.
God, in the absolute infinity of God’s being, desired to create a world, a universe. God’s own infinite nature, in some sense, the limitless expanse that defines, but overflows all definition, refused Creation’s possibility, for no open space existed in which Creation could occur. All was full with All.
The first act of creation, before a word was spoken above the water, was divine contraction. God betrayed God’s own infinite essence in order to create a space of Nothingness: mercy as a form of economy. As the microscopic self, so the Stoics would say, always reflects the macroscopic universe, creation operates along a parallel line within us. The first creative act is to remove the self that can only say “me,” can only say “I,” in order to open the possibility of a you. Within Nothing you can occur.
Upon that Nothing, God took the vessels of the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the Sefirot (imagined as hollow glass vessels), and with them etched on Nothing those words that unfolded into Being.
In order to write, God poured the infinite fecundity of God’s creative essence into the letter-vessels. As when any finite object (a vessel to carry water, a vessel to carry life) is filled with infinite source, the finite shatters. The glimmering shards by which the world formed fell into the world, into all that makes up world—into us, our mind and skin. Although this original language is fallen and broken, it carries still within it an iota of that original, infinite, creative power.
To write is to contribute to the ongoing creation of the world.
To write one must withdraw from the page enough to allow the poem to exist.
To do so, one might put on a mask. “Call me Ishmael.”