Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Better Living Through Bafflegab -- Popcorn by The Colonel #37

Life-size (13 feet) probable Juno at Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Ancient Italian religion is ineffably complex and rich, but, with minor qualifications, The Colonel stands by his contradicted assertion that Romans worshiped the Olympian gods. It might be more precise to say that Romans eventually identified Greek Olympian gods as the same gods the Romans had worshiped under other names, like Juno for Hera.
The Romans also worshiped purely Latin gods without Greek counterparts, like good old two-faced Janus, with his varied portfolio of deceit, doorways, passages, and beginnings (e.g., new year -- January). The Romans also engaged in emperor-worship. But The Colonel's exiguous research discloses that Romans did not believe that the major sky gods dwelt in the Pantheon, a building whose actual history and purpose are not entirely clear. Much more could be said, but brevity is wit's soul, so there's an end on it, unless Catherine Johnson or (gulp) Elizabeth Bobrick or anyone else wants to share better information on where Romans believed Jupiter and Juno dwelt. If not specifically Olympus, it was at least "heaven."

(Divine mnemonic: driNk Nectar, eAt Ambrosia.)

Speaking of Greek and Roman gods, it was instant death for a human to look at an undisguised god or goddess. When gods appeared to humans, they reduced themselves to human (or animal) scale, but they were actually, according to the above-mentioned years-long exiguous research, around fifteen feet tall. Within the last couple of years, The Colonel viewed the probable Juno at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The head is now separately displayed a foot or two to the side of the rest of the great body, since the it may be non-original, but even so, the statue is about 12 feet tall -- almost life-size, 1900 years old. It was the second time the artistic representation of an ancient pagan god had awestruck The Colonel. The first time was a year or so before that in Florida, seeing an Egyptian deity portrayed as a life-size goose with its left foot stepping forward. Majesty in simplicity.

Some things can't be condensed, or even restated, without loss. Example 1: "Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are best of all." (Churchill.) Edit: "Prefer old short words." Yuck. Example 2: "Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all." (Balfour.) Edit: "Little matters, nothing much." Double yuck. Nothing was lost in either edit save everything worth anything.

Biblical literacy as part of cultural literacy. Would the republic crash down if the Bible were taught in public schools so children wouldn't grow up thinking that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife or that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife?

The Colonel recently tried to think of "the greatest symbols ever" or even whether such a category made any sense. The ones the conveyor belt brought along were things like the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the sky, a cloud, the blue marble earth, the sea, a man, a woman, a human baby, a lamb, a goose, a turtle,  a laughing cat, a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Superman's chestal "S," the bat signal, a tree, lightning, a mountain, a river, an aleph, a theta, a pi, a tau, a lunate sigma, an omega, a smiley, a great and terrible angel (with a flaming sword?), Mickey Mouse. The idea  floated up that the best symbols are those that have no definitive representation, but take form under the gaze of the inward eye.

The winner at length: a bush that burns, but is not consumed.

First runner up: the road sign, unloved by traffic engineers, that they call "rain in a bottle," better known as "road narrows."

Second runner up: skull and crossbones encircled by legend "A Commitment to Excellence" (Raiders logo). (The Colonel tries not to limit himself to only lofty thoughts.)

If that's insufficient food to keep the mind alive for a bit, Google one or more of the following for sugary snacks:

Taylor Swift May Already Be Recording a Song; 

10 Things You Should Never Buy at Tag Sales; 

You Won’t Believe Who Romney is Related To; 

Causes of Death You Won’t Want on Your Death Certificate; 

Iconic American Food Helped America Through World War II; 

Ten Hairstyles That Attract Men

Abe Lincoln Related to Hollywood Hottie? 

We Still Import Tons of This From Britain.

To process all that sugar, some insulin: "Stare not long into the abyss, for you will soon desire to do nothing else."

Thanks to D. Rabbi for filling in last week.


Anonymous said...

Having read The Eye since its inception, I conclude Jupiter and Juno dwell in the North End.

Elizabeth Bobrick said...

Esteemed Colonel-
I am honored that the mere mention of my name causes fear and trembling. Would that it were so everywhere.

Brace yourself.

Roman religion (a very complex subject) did indeed identify Jupiter as a sky god, and he and his dysfunctional family lived in Olympus. The Pantheon was a temple built by Emperor Hadrian, who comes on the scene rather late (died 138 AD, or as we now say, CE - Christian Era). It's a temple but in tribute to the gods, but not a place where they were thought to live. The poet Ovid, who lived during the time of the Emperor Augustus (he died AD 17) has a funny bit in his Metamorphosis about the major gods living in the high rent district of heaven, while the minor ones were relegated to the less fancy neighborhoods.

ever yr. humble servant,