GreenasSky A gambol in the goodies by Sloan Nota

Architectural Message of Chartres Cathedral

Medieval accounts tell of riders passing amid long fields until at last they see the spires of Chartres Cathedral begin rising into view. On the brink of nowhere this apparition asserts itself in splendor.  As sublime a teaching as the architecture itself. A revelation.

It’s not possible that the builders failed to anticipate this effect.  At least five other cathedrals had stood on this elevation (each destroyed by fire or war).  How high they rose is not known, but the effect of parallax would preview the architectural vision at some point along the travelers’ road.

Irish pilgrimage to Chartres Cathedral. via irishpilgrimagechartres.blogspot

Present-day Irish pilgrimage to Chartres Cathedral. via irishpilgrimagechartres.blogspot

How different in architectural intention from the Egyptian pyramid makers whose massive structures dominate a flat expanse. The tops of the pyramids were clad in gold and would blaze when the rays of sun events (sunset, high noon…) hit them directly. Imagine that experience while your camel train still toils desert miles away.  In years of solar eclipse what prophesies the priests could demonstrate — the sun gets eaten by blackness, then reemerges to light the world again.  Atop the pyramids, darkness then that spark.

Desert approach to the Giza pyramids. via Wikipedia.

Desert approach to the Giza pyramids. via Wikipedia.

I’ve experienced a solar eclipse only once, standing with a handful of of astronomers on a vast hard-frozen lake. Some feelings are beyond our understanding. I cried.  It was magnificent and I understood the science, yet some atavistic root in me jolted to experience Earth bereft of sun.  Educative to confront that inside your modern self.

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While looking into Chartres I encountered the Cult of the Cart.

Throughout European history there have been several documentary accounts of occasions when the public spontaneously came together to labour on some important building project (the earliest being Suetonius‘ account of the rebuilding of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus in Rome after a fire in AD 70). In medieval Europe, perhaps the most widely known and influential of these events occurred during the building of the Benedictine Abbey at Montecassino (Italy) in 1066. The Abbey’s chronicler, Peter the Deacon, described how a crowd of pious lay people spontaneously seized some heavy marble columns which had been delivered from Rome and carried them up the long steep hill to the building site, singing and praying as they went.

Various historians have said that the Chartres building stones were brought by this means. Carts dragged by pious humans in lieu of oxen — a numinous tale that arrests your attention.  Other historians suggest the Chartres Cult of Carts may be urban legend.  Until we’ve got time travel down pat won’t know.

Current events have recalled of this image. After the government of Michigan created lead poisoning in the city of Flint, 300 volunteer plumbers came to install water filters on residents’ faucets.

The plumbers show how a society might work.  As with old barn-raisings in the US, neighbors far and near come to join in the labor.  Society needs you, you show up and pitch in. 300 plumbers? Who would’ve guessed?

Rapscallion politicians, little surprise.  The wheel of history seems ever in a rut.

Because of that I wonder about what the celebrations were like after the building materials had been dragged to the Chartres site.  Even more than with the 1800s’ barn-raisings there must have been a pause to rest from labor,  a nap beneath carts and trees. Then the festivities. Music, food, intoxicants… laughter, flirting and dancing.  The traditional huffing, puffing and begetting in dark corners.  Songs, too much to eat and drink, sprawled snoring after.

 

The Wedding Dance (c.1566), oil on oak panel, The Detroit Institute of Arts. via Wikipedia.

The Wedding Dance (c.1566), oil on oak panel, The Detroit Institute of Arts. via Wikipedia.

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I was reminded of the numinous approach to Chartres while investigating the intriguing metalsmith and jewelry maker Brie Flora,   I urge you to investigate her lively imagination.

Tea for Two on an Overnight Train to Beijing

It was 5am as I sat drinking tea on an overnight train from Suzhou traveling to Beijing. I watched cornfields pass outside my window for hours, until out of nowhere, there was a skyscraper. There was nothing between the low, calm, beautiful farmland to prepare you for the large stark concrete building towering above.

by Brie Flora, via brieflora

Categories art, history, technology | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Happy Winterfest Dear Humans!

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It’s hard not to smile as three robo-reindeer prance smartly ahead of this sleigh.  A few fluffy antlers waggle, heads are proud and high. The delicate mechanizations of their legs mimic nimble antelopes more than legs of stodgy reindeer, but I’ll believe Prancer and Dancer and Vixen. Imagine the clatter of little hooves on the roof.

I’m grateful that my humanity lets me believe in Santa and magic reindeer, in the details of Clement Clarke Moore’s antique poem and in the spirited reality of robo-reindeer on the grass.  Of course robo-beings are coming, we see them walking toward us down the aisles. They won’t be able to endow Stuff with charm and character, they won’t feel jolly or have a taste for rum-laced eggnog. Robots won’t get it.

Or maybe some day they will. As my mother used to say ‘qui sait?’ — who knows?  We see a technological future closing on us, prancing on shiny articulated legs. May we all hang onto our humanity while, up the chimney we go in our soot-shunning suits.

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I wish us all jolliness, yumminess, silliness and the fondness of of others — including the pets.  Here’s to the best in humanity enduring in a fast-changing world. Most of all I wish us all this:

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Categories contemporary society, geekery, technology, the Future | 1 Comment

Touch me

 

Buddhist child with bird, via thebluebirdpatch.

Buddhist child with bird, via thebluebirdpatch.

Tie a knot, write a list, whittle a flute, twirl spaghetti round your fork.  If you have paws, hooves, wings these maneuvers aren’t in your skill set.  Nor are rope, words, knives, or pasta flour. The human hand is perhaps as important in our species’ evolution as our big and highly convoluted brain.

By various measures an elephant’s IQ is quite similar to ours, but look at those flat thunking feet.  Their trunk (nose) is their main manipulator.  Compare that to a hand’s dexterity and understand the barriers to elephants in developing gadgets or working a chemistry lab.

That said, this blogpost is about one particular use of hands that gets scant scientific airplay: our hands are accomplished communicators. Forget sign language and lovely hula hands — human touch conveys our emotional state to others. We pet dogs and horses, we pet wild animals who’ve been habituated to humans. We make communion across species. No religion meant here, we make communion with others.

You’ve seen instances of animals rubbing necks, seemingly for the same reason.  Without hands they agree on a touch that soothes, that amplifies a mammalian sense of peace and love. John and Yoko 101? Actually birds do it, maybe bees do it. Certain fish invite massages in the sea.  Does this reach back through the whole vertebrate line?

Because if it does it strengthens the argument that we humans are deeply related  to our nonhuman peers. Kindred at a basal level, we can convey comfort, we can share trust.  We have a compelling form of Midas’ hands.

 

owl being petted [apologies for embedded caption] via http://www.playbuzz.com/jennifers/18-cutest-animal-reactions-to-humans-petting-them?utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_medium=ff&utm_campaign=ff

Owl being petted, via playbuzz

kitten being petted via http://www.playbuzz.com/jennifers/18-cutest-animal-reactions-to-humans-petting-them?utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_medium=ff&utm_campaign=ff

Kitten being petted, via playbuzz

 

deer being petted via http://www.playbuzz.com/jennifers/18-cutest-animal-reactions-to-humans-petting-them?utm_source=pinterest.com&utm_medium=ff&utm_campaign=ff

Deer being petted, via playbuzz

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Mali uromastyx enjoying a belly rub

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A shared moment with a turkey.

 

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Not long before this, an eel bit off a diver’s thumb. The diver grabbed for it? Decided to ‘own’ it with his hands?

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The Silent Language of Hands by Steve McCurry via his blog.

The Silent Language of Hands by Steve McCurry via his blog.

Human hands can speak between souls. That they can also speak across phylums is a glory.

Categories interspecies, science, nature | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Use Hate

It’s a curiously human emotion, hate. We seem to have it in our genes, no one’s exempt. Dogs, cats, turkeys don’t hate anonymous dogs, cats, poultry.  But hate is the beating heart of demagoguery.  They want to activate it in you, knowing that  hate is one spot where we’re vulnerable. And once they grab you by your hate they’ll wring you like a dishrag. They’ll plug a ring in your nose, lead you to more hate, deeper, purer.

You don’t need audio to know who’s dishing out hate.  These people hate gays, hate Mexicans (then swerve to hating Muslims), hate atheists, hate blacks, hate vaginas and uteri being in the control of women. Turn off the audio, watch their mouthparts move as they rant.

Haters

Haters hating.

They’re merciless. Demonize a group — or individual you want to lynch — and do them harm because now you can roar, Let’s git ’em. But show me where the Muslims or blacks or gay people are in the image below. Show me the atheist women. After all, none of these fluoresce. It’s a myth that there are cohesive blocs of human beings in lockstep rather than acting as individuals. A myth that  there are any ‘Mexicans’ other than Jorge, Anna, Lupita, each with their own problems, opinions and annoying aunts. ‘Mexican’ is an abstraction, a word, a puff of air. ‘Mexican’ can’t cook you tamales.

Google map

Google map

Just words but the word could be ‘hat’ and a practiced demagogue could make you want to stomp one.

I knew a Jewish woman in college. She went with friends to hear Billy Graham. Sometime later she was surprised to find she was in line to eat a wafer, get a dot on her forehead, whatever the Mystery Gesture was.

Graham was a powerful demagogue.

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Remember Senator McCarthy who ruined so many careers in the 1950s? McCarthyism is ‘the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”‘   via Wikipedia, McCarthyism

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“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

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“We are not descended from fearful men.”

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A demagogue is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower socioeconomic classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis.   via Wikipedi, demagoguery

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Ted Cruz logic.

Ted Cruz logic.

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Blame. I hate you because I blame you, or I blame you because I hate you? Clarity melts in the heat of fury, your brain is overridden by your galloping guts.

Phoenix mosque protest

Phoenix mosque protest

Phoenix mosque protest

Phoenix mosque protest

The Paris attackers were all Europeans. So the United Staes moved to block Syrian refugees?  No logic needed, just fear of words, of heated puffs of air.

It’s an odd fact of evolution that the hate in us provides satisfaction. How ever did it get connected to our pleasure centers? How come it feels gooood? What’s the evolutionary value in that? Or is this an ‘artifact’ of evolution like extra wisdom teeth? Because it sure causes a lot more trouble.

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KKK group. via cnn.com

KKK group. via cnn.com

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

— lyrics from Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

Categories contemporary society, history | Leave a comment
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