In my neighborhood growing up, just as in many neighborhoods all over the world, there were families of many faiths working together to form a community—a safe haven for their children.  Separations developed over lawn mowers being borrowed, and were healed by neighborly intervention.  When we had questions about a menorah being displayed, or an image of Ghanesh, we would ask in our curiosity and be answered.  Matters of faith, for the members of my community, were personal and important; faith was a tool and blessing to be used by those willing, not forced or denied, and it was understood that everyone used their own language to pray.

Whether a person believes faith is valid or not, or whether a person believes in Divinity or not is relatively unimportant; what matters is that we honor the rights of our neighbors to believe as they wish, and to heal ignorance when it rears its head.  All are unique, and each has a path to follow.

I have been a glass worker for over twenty years, initially attracted to the medium because of its play with, and dependency on, the effects of light.  I also enjoy the inflexibility of much of the medium—there are tight rules for using the materials, and the constraints can seem overwhelming.  However, exploring the possibilities of expression within those constraints has been—forgive me—illuminating.  I find there are parallels between glass work and the realities of social living, as well.

For the last several years, I have been exploring and comparing religions and spiritual systems.  Religion is an organized system of covenant making, where the covenants made facilitate becoming a divine person, or to become a truly complete and fully evolved human.  Spiritual systems are ways of viewing and processing reality, so the individual can make consistent decisions leading towards the realization of the complete human.  Although symbolic vocabularies vary wildly, the underlying motivations appear consistent—humanity strives to become better, and to make the future better for its children.

A while ago, I realized that the television portrayals of some faiths did not match what I observed in friends of mine who declared themselves of those faiths portrayed.  Going back to the roots of my childhood, I determined I would ask for explanations, directly from the source.  Now of course I understand that one or two people cannot bear the responsibility of faith for millions or billions of others, but I felt that they should know what they themselves believe in.  One of these faiths I began to explore is Islam.  As a glass artist, I felt it appropriate to express my experiences in the medium with which I am most comfortable, and this was the beginning of my ongoing project, 99 Most Beautiful Names.

Over the next three years, I will be relating my experiences with research and exploration of the 99 Most Beautiful Names, the Names of God from the Qur’an, and the sculptures I build.  I will also be sharing technical aspects of my glass work, the ongoing process of the project, and feedback.  There are always shrill voices of derision, but I have found those who respond to the project, positively or negatively, do so while being consistently polite.  My father said that name-calling is the purview of bullies, and reason the purview of people.  I hope this continues to prove true.

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