I’ve been thinking lately about how one determines beauty. Arguments can be made for the primacy of the ‘eye of the beholder’ in such a determination, but one can’t discount cultural or experiential factors in defining the quality. I’ve been reading that the beauty of classical sculpture may lie to a great extent in the imagined perfection that the damaged remnants still in existence conjure in one’s mind. The figurative Greek sculpture that has over the centuries suffered abuse and intentional destruction still represents what many consider the ideal of physical beauty despite its fragmentary existence.
This idea has me thinking that maybe the greatest beauty, that which is most aesthetically pleasing is beyond physical manifestation; an argument for the existence of God.
I’ve been reading about the ancient Spartans and how research has determined they weren’t as ‘spartan’ as mythology would suggest, that, in fact, they were as unwilling to put themselves in life-threatening situations as anyone else and that they appreciated the arts of poetry and music.
This revelation has me thinking about what sort of mythology might evolve from our contemporary reality in, say, 2000 years’ time. Given that history is a narrative and stories are interpreted and change, one wonders how we’ll be seen. I’m thinking the images of our modern selves won’t be all that wonderful. There will be good things to think about us I suppose: our intellectual energy producing, as we have, wonders in medicine, science and communication technologies, but any overview of contemporary us by our future descendants will have to take into account the dubious ethical behaviors we’ve engaged in the fight to control the earth’s resources and claim the wealth as our own.
Whatever future mythology develops about us from the actions of our twenty-first century selves is pretty hard to guess; I’m just hoping there are folks still around to make an evaluation.
I love this time of year. As the solstice approaches and the days grow longer the weather is usually warm and nature is in her verdant fullest. Thanks to the strong presence of the sun.
The ancient Egyptians honored the sun, whom they thought of as Aman, on the summer solstice. Apparently in Egypt this time of year the Nile begins to rise and flood it’s banks replenishing the soil; an incredibly significant occurrence for a desert culture. The Egyptian solstice celebration involved re-enactment of the battle between Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris and his uncle Set. Set, having recently killed his brother Osiris was cast as the bad guy. Horus ends up winning the battle and becoming king of the land but Set isn’t annihilated so continues to hang around being evil and causing havoc.
I find it interesting that so many of the Egyptian gods have animal attributes. For instance, Osiris is associated with the bull symbolizing virility and strength, Isis’ fertility is symbolized in association with the cow, Horus, the falcon symbolizes royalty and strength. And that’s just to name three. There was cat, baboon, Ibis, jackal and many other animals honored as well. Sometimes the gods were thought to have reincarnated into their animal attributes leading the Egyptians to revere animals in a way we, being so thoroughly anthropomorphic, probably can never understand.
I also found it interesting that Osiris, after being reconstructed and brought back to life by Isis was thought to be annually resurrected with the rise of the Nile and it’s life-giving replenishing of the soil. I guess for an agronomist culture the idea of resurrection of life doesn’t take too much imagination.
It seems to me unfortunate that any religious tradition would claim exclusive rights to such a concept.
I’ve been practicing yoga lately and despite my limited mobility am finding the activity very energizing both physically and psychologically. The breathing exercises alone have great beneficial worth.
So, I was somewhat dismayed to read recently that an Indian Yogi named Maharaj, who had, according to his followers achieved the deep meditative state called Samadhi and had actually been existing in transcendental bliss for nearly five months, was declared clinically dead by a group of physicians that the family had called in to examine him. Apparently his flesh began to turn green which the family saw as a pretty convincing give away.
As it turns out, the organization Maharaj operated from his Ashram is a multi-national non-profit worth millions. What this suggests to skeptical me is ulterior motives vis a vis the yogi’s followers and his family.
Well, whatever happens regarding this distasteful affair, it won’t dissuade me from my semi-daily yogic exercises. I may never reach Samadhi (which, come to think of it, may be for the best) but I will continue to enjoy the benefits of a wonderful discipline.