Friday 29 March 2013

Behold, Behold (Re-Post)

"To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed. It is no accident that in the comedies of Shakespeare, people go into the greenwood to grow, learn and change. It is where you travel to find yourself, often paradoxically, by getting lost......

Merlin sends the future King Arthur as a boy into the greenwood to fend for himself in The Sword in the Stone. There, he falls asleep and dreams himself, like a chameleon, into the lives of the animals and the trees. In As you Like It, the banished Duke Senior goes and lives in the forests of Arden like Robin Hood, and in Midsummer Nights' Dream the magical metamorphosis of the lovers takes place in a wood 'outside Athens' that is quite clearly an English Wood, full of the faeries and the Robin Goodfellows of our folklore.....

The Chinese count wood as the fifth element, and Jung considered trees an archetype. Nothing can compare with these larger than life organisms for signalling changes in the natural world. They are our barometers of the weather and the changing seasons. We tell the time of year by them. Trees have the capacity to rise to the heavens and connect us to the sky, to endure, to renew, to bear fruit, and to burn and warm us through winter."

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees
Roger Deakin

This post is for Good Friday. The hymn is traditional to the somber liturgies which take place on the day the Church recalls Christ's death. Actually, it is one of my favourites, and has been stuck in my head for weeks. I have deliberately juxtaposed the work of Roger Deakin here because, for all the sadness, tribulation and horror of the crucifixion, Good Friday is a liturgy of renewal. To enter into the wood of the cross is to pass into the realities of this world: it is where you travel to find yourself, often paradoxically, by getting lost......The cross is the barometer of my spiritual weather and changing seasons. I tell the time of year by it. It has the capacity to rise to the heavens and connect me to the divine, to endure, to renew, to bear fruit, and to burn and warm me through the cold and dark of winter. Behold....Enter.....

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Chattered Stones

This is my all time favourite object. I have posted this before. I bought my Da the CD of History of the World in 100 Objects for Christmas 2011. I just found the story of this beautiful, beautiful treasure and played it. 

It is the Ain Sakhri lovers, and has formed part of the History of the World in 100 Objects series, narrated beautifully by Neil MacGregor.

The history of this object can be completely, and more thoroughly researched by clinking the link above. Here, I would like to tell you why I love it. But, if you really love this, listen to Neil talk about it. He is so precise with his words, you will never forget the story.

Where to start? It is made from 'chattered' stone. A pebble which has journeyed down stream, 'chattering' against other stones as it passes through the water. This has made the pebble smooth, its contact with others has rubbed off its hard edges, made it soft to the touch. I like the idea of being smoothed by interaction with others: loving company will turn us all to chattered stones. At some point in the journey, someone, perhaps the person whose domestic and homely cave in which this figurine was found, picked this smooth stone from the cold waters and carved it into an image of human love. A couple locked in a sexual embrace. Smooth, calm, intimate.

It was found in the Ain Sakrhi cave, near Bethlehem. How amazing that the oldest representation of human love was found there! These lovers date from 8000bc, picked up by a traveling bedouin, sold to the French Fathers and acquired by Rene Neuville in 1958. The person who carved this beautiful image of lovers was a member of the Natufian people. Natufians are noted as being the first human beings to farm their food. They bred sheep and goats, and so had some understanding about the principles of reproduction. They hunted gazelle with their dogs, and gathered figs, acorns, pistachios, wild lentils, chick peas and wheat. As a lifestyle they had developed a way of staying in one place and producing an abundance of food. Naturally, this led to periods of reflection, thought and time to carve so beautiful and object.

It is amazing to me that in such moments of reflection so long ago, someone would have chosen to carve two people loving each other. Many anthropologists have argued that early human people did not have long term monogamous relationships. That sex was just a way of continuing the species, and that women grouped together to look after their offspring, whilst men headed out to hunt. This statue does not speak of that phenomenon. It is not possible to tell which of these figures is male, and which is female, they are so tightly embraced. They are looking into each others' eyes. One wraps their arms around the shoulder of the other, their legs are entwined. This, to me at least, is an image of love.

So, in conclusion, why to I really love this object? A chattering stone made a journey to Bethlehem, was picked out of the cold and moulded by a human hand into the form of love. And all of this happened because of the moment of reflection good food brought. Now, that is a perfect narration of how the world should be.