I first heard Selah in Elia Kazan’s 1955 masterpiece, East of Eden starring James Dean. The story parallels the old parable of Cain and Abel, and in Kazan's adaptation, Cal, the supposedly bad brother, ruins his father's refrigeration business venture by sliding large blocks of ice down a farm chute. All the ice melted, and as punishment, Cal’s father forced him and Aron, Cal’s brother, to sit at the dining room table and read the Bible. Adam chooses a portion of Psalms; he hands Cal the Bible, enormous and riddled with tears and notes in which Cal hunches over the book and begins to mumble verses. He reads Psalms 32:5 and quickly finished it with the word selah. Selah. His father suggests he reads a bit slower, and he does not have to announce the number of the verse. Cal goes on to read the next verse, starting off by announcing the number. Six. He mumbles again until he reaches the next verse. He ends his transgressions with a sharp Selah. “Seven,” he says, the tip of his tongue crawling behind his lower teeth. He continues, ending this verse with a triumphant SELAH. “Eight!” he yells. His father rises and slams his palms on the table. “You have no repentance!” Aron sits quietly, and Cal, sheepishly sits back in his chair.
I was taken aback. A word said with so much resistance and violence between Cal’s teeth, and yet it means something so peaceful and meditative. I had never heard that word before, not even in Bible study or Sunday school. It took a movie for me to fully understand the difficulty of that word. To pause and reflect. Rejoice and praise. Look to the Lord, and worship. As a religious word, it has more significance than I can fathom. As a piece of language, it is juxtaposed to the English language. Selah is Hebrew, and has never been properly translated in English. That is why its home is still in the King James Version English Bible. Selah: to pause and reflect.
I understood Selah to be more a virtue than a word. We, as artists and audiences, must look to art and reflect upon it. We cannot let art pass us by and glance at it in museums or scan over writing for class. We must invest ourselves and unwind our hesitations. We have to stop being bystanders and start understanding art as it is in front of us. We must use art as a catalyst for change and unity, and not use art to drive apart our communities. Selah means to rejoice and praise. We must take joy in our work, pride in ourselves, and understand that worldly pain is a universal concept. We cannot sit idly anymore, especially in these times. We have to use art as a product of thought and intellect, and not as a mindless excuse. We have to see as the artist sees it; we may judge and critique art, but we must understand and love it before we move forward.
We hope this magazine will allow our audience to take time from their days and lives to enjoy and understand artists and writers. We believe that we match art and writing with impeccable themes and language. We are very excited to see what our future issues hold in store for us. But for now, we must pause. Reflect. Return.
Creative Director and Editor-In-Chief