About the Artwork

The original Stanford motto is “Semper Virens,” which in Latin means ever green or forever green. The original logo from 1908 shows a tree of this kind standing alone in a hilly landscape. Recently, forest ecology professor and researcher Suzanne Simard theorized that trees were not isolated organisms but existed in complex communities, sharing resources communally through mycorrhizal fungal networks. Dr. Simard has even demonstrated that trees use these networks to communicate information.

Recently, we traveled to the California redwoods. A few individual trees towered over the others and reached astonishing heights. It was breathtaking to see these individual trees, but even more profound to realize that these were the “mother trees” described by Dr. Simard, which nurture the entire forest.

In my illustration, I thought of the interconnectivity of the educational experience. Education is a process of interaction and depends on a complex, interdependent community. Ultimately, there is not really such a thing as a tree that grows in isolation.

Enlightenment thinking views education as a citadel. Young scholars are isolated to fully pursue their studies. More and more that view is changing. Education now is rooted in society and culture. Schools like Stanford grow through interconnectivity and by becoming more inclusive, not more isolated and elite.

The modern view of education as a practice of interconnectivity is a lot like the structure of Jewish learning as it has existed since ancient times. Talmudic commentary shows a branching, interconnected view of text, with many authors writing on the same page. The isolation of the author and the singularity of the text are recomposited in favor of interconnection.

The Jewish concept of education is incredibly flexible and resilient and serves as a template for interconnected education. I think of the Yiddish language intimately entwined with German and yet conveying concepts that don’t exist anywhere else.

The overlaid diagrams are from a Jewish astronomy textbook that I found in an archive that demonstrate interconnected learning. The mathematics of the eclipse diagram change subtly in translation and the final product conveys spiritual and religious concepts as well as the science. The diagrams are more than translated, they are altered to become a framework for communicating a more ancient story. The astronomical diagrams are entangled, just like a page from the Talmud.

- Isaac Peterson

About the Artist

Isaac has twenty years of experience in digital design, art, and book layout. He has designed books and built websites for authors of fiction, faith books, science fiction, and textbooks in subjects ranging from technology, health, and blockchain. He has published books for himself and other authors. With an MFA in fine art, he brings an artistic eye to all of his design and photography projects. He is also the editor for children’s books at Emerald Books and Cup & Quill.