TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label J. R. R. Tolkien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label J. R. R. Tolkien. Show all posts

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Terminalia: Boundaries in Space and Time


Click to enlarge. The Feast Before the Altar of Terminus. (c. 1642) By Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609 - 1664). Print, Italian, 17th century etching. 23 x 18.4 cm (9 1/16 x 7 1/4 in.) B.16. Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Louise Haskell Daly Fund, S6.97.1 Department of Prints, Division of European and American Art. Image Source: Wiki.

There is a saying in the country that "good fences make good neighbours." The origin of that sentiment comes from the ancient worship of the Roman god, Terminus.

Text Source. From: Samuel Ball Platner, Thomas Ashby, "Terminus, Fanum" in A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford University Press, 1929), p. 512.


Image Source: Particulations.

Click to enlarge. "Terminus is often pictured as a bust on a boundary stone, here the concedo nvlli or concedo nulli means 'yield no ground.'" Design for a Stained Glass Window with Terminus. (31 December 1524) By Hans Holbein the Younger. Pen and ink and brush, grey wash, watercolour, over preliminary chalk drawing, 31.5 × 25 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel. Holbein designed the window for the scholar and theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Image Source: Wiki.

Today, February 23rd, was once a holiday known as Terminalia, when landowners in the Roman Republic, and later, the Empire would meet at fence lines and renew the boundaries of communities. They would decorate their property lines with flowers and offer food to Terminus. They might also sacrifice a baby animal to him. Accounts of the ritual vary. From Carnaval:
"On this day, landowners would honor the boundaries of their land at the bound[a]ry markers. Garlands were placed over the bound[a]ry stones, and altars were built near them. Offerings of grain and ho[n]ey were given by the children, and the adults would offer wine. Everyone was dressed in white, and were required to keep silent throughout the offerings. A picnic feast was held at the end of the ritual."
From Agile Complexification Inverter:
"The festival of the Terminalia was celebrated in Rome and in the country on the 23rd of February. The neighbors on either side of any boundary gathered around the landmark [the stones which marked boundaries], with their wives, children, and servants; and crowned it, each on his own side, with garlands, and offered cakes and, bloodless sacrifices. In later times, however, a lamb, or sucking pig, was sometimes slain, and the stone sprinkled with the blood. Lastly, the whole neighborhood joined in a general feast."
L'Avenaz Roman boundary marker in La Giettaz - French Alps. Image Source: Savoie Mont Blanc.

Busts of Terminus form a boundary. Image Source: Rome Across Europe.

Hadrian's wall just east of Cawfields quarry, Northumberland, UK in October 2005. Image Source: Velella / Wiki. See also: the Antonine Wall. The Wall in the Song of Ice and Fire books and Game of Thrones TV series by George R. R. Martin is based on these structures.

Public festivals for Terminus marked the limits of Rome, be it the city or the empire. At this point, agrarian life collided with military culture. The offerings were a celebration of division between people:
"The rites of the Terminalia included ceremonial renewal and mutual recognition of the boundary stone, the marker between properties. A garland would be laid on this marker by all parties to the land so divided."
After the offerings, neighbours would sing to the god and hold a feast together. It was a complex set of ideas, honouring being cut off from each other and yet being unified in that experience. The poet Ovid described the solemn atmosphere and the larger Roman military context in his poem, Fasti (On the Roman Calendar; read it here or here), translated in 2004 by A. S. Kline:
"When night has passed, let the god be celebrated
With customary honour, who separates the fields with his sign.
Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth,
You have been a god since ancient times.
You are crowned from either side by two landowners,
Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering.
An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself
Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot.
The old man cuts wood and piles the logs with skill,
And works at setting branches in the solid earth.
Then he nurses the first flames with dry bark,
While a boy stands by and holds the wide basket.
When he’s thrown grain three times into the fire
The little daughter offers the sliced honeycombs.
Others carry wine: part of each is offered to the flames:
The crowd, dressed in white, watch silently.
Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood,
And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him.
Neighbours gather sincerely, and hold a feast,
And sing your praises, sacred Terminus:
'You set bounds to peoples, cities, great kingdoms:
Without you every field would be disputed.
You curry no favour: you aren’t bribed with gold,
Guarding the land entrusted to you in good faith.
If you’d once marked the bounds of Thyrean lands,
Three hundred men would not have died,
Nor Othryades’ name be seen on the pile of weapons.
O how he made his fatherland bleed!
What happened when the new Capitol was built?
The whole throng of gods yielded to Jupiter and made room:
But as the ancients tell, Terminus remained in the shrine
Where he was found, and shares the temple with great Jupiter.
Even now there’s a small hole in the temple roof,
So he can see nothing above him but stars.
Since then, Terminus, you’ve not been free to wander:
Stay there, in the place where you’ve been put,
And yield not an inch to your neighbour’s prayers,
Lest you seem to set men above Jupiter:
And whether they beat you with rakes, or ploughshares,
Call out: "This is your field, and that is his!"'
There’s a track that takes people to the Laurentine fields,
The kingdom once sought by Aeneas, the Trojan leader:
The sixth milestone from the City, there, bears witness
To the sacrifice of a sheep’s entrails to you, Terminus.
The lands of other races have fixed boundaries:
The extent of the City of Rome and the world is one."
There is a sense that in Rome, worship of Terminus's boundaries became more aggressive over time. The boundary line had to be decked with sacrificial blood, whereas in an earlier, gentler period, it was enough to burn grain and honeycombs to appease the stubborn god. Perhaps there is a tiny kernel in the changing mood of Terminalia in the contemporary debate over nationalism and immigration, borders, border zones, and border fences and walls. Perhaps not. Regardless, attitudes to boundaries do vacillate over time, between openness and closure.

The US-Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. Image Source: NYT.

Hungary's border fence. Image Source: euronews via republic buzz.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Martian Moment in 2018


Image Source: Strange Sounds.

It may sound odd, but the event that stands out in my mind as encapsulating the year of 2018 was astronomical. Mars was brightest in the night sky from 27-30 July 2018; it reached opposition with the sun, and then shortly afterwards came closest to Earth on 31 July 2018. Mars had not been so close to the Earth since 2003.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Welcome the December Solstice 2017


Stones of Stenness, Orkney, Scotland, UK. Image Source: pinterest.

Welcome the December Solstice. It arrives at 16:28 UTC, heralding the arrival of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and of spring in the Southern Hemisphere.


Today, the blog belatedly observes this year's 80th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic, The Hobbit, which was first published on 21 September 1937. Above, for the solstice, hear Tolkien read a section from The Hobbit (hat tip: Brain Pickings via Sound Cloud).

Mystery of the Universe: "This ancient building is called Fornace Penna. It was an ancient fabric of bricks destroyed because of bombing in the second world war. Behind this beautiful historic wreck you can see the milky way in all its magnificence." (Sicily, Italy; 23 May 2015) Image © Salvatore Cerruto via TWAN.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2017: The Famine of Memory


This is an early incarnation of the villain, Sauron, when he was known as Mairon. Image Source: The Land of Shadow.

One of the premises of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is that the characters live in a perilous time when real history has been lost. Thus, mortal danger arises not from the arch-villain, exactly, but from the abandoned vigilance of memory.

A later incarnation of Sauron, when he was known as Annatar. Image Source © Angel Falto/Tolkien Gateway.

Another conception of Annatar, who deceived the elves in the Second Age. Image Source © Alaïs/deviantART/Tolkien Gateway.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: Cauldrons and Grails


Efnisien sacrifices himself to destroy the cauldron of rebirth. The Destruction of the Cauldron of Rebirth (1905) by Thomas Prytherch (1864-1926). Image Source: Wiki.

As a child, I read Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron, the second book in the Chronicles of Prydain. The hero, Taran, makes his way through a vast swamp to find a black cauldron, which must be secured before an evil king seizes it. This artifact has the power to bring dead men back to life and can create an army of undead warriors. Similar to Sauron's ring in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, the cauldron is depicted as a weapon like today's atomic bomb. It looks like a tool for certain victory in war. But it offers death and despair to those who try to wield its incredible power. The only thing an army can do with this mega-weapon, according to Celtic folklore, is destroy it, because its power lies beyond the accepted boundaries of human existence. Taran learns from the cauldron's witch guardians that the cauldron can only be destroyed by the sacrifice of a live man who willingly climbs into it and dies.

Lloyd Alexander's work adapted the Welsh pre-Christian myth cycle, The Mabinogion. This Celtic legend is part of Britain's earliest prose literature, a romance written down in the 11th century, based on earlier oral sources. In the second part of these tales, Branwen Daughter of Llŷr, "A tragically genocidal war develops fomented by Efnisien, in which a Cauldron which resurrects ... dead figures." The sadistic, psychopathic anti-hero Efnisien is responsible for the destruction of Ireland and the Island of the Mighty, also known as AlbionPrydain or Britain. To make up for his transgressions, Efnisien climbs into the cauldron and destroys it. Thus, bound up with the cauldron's original story of resurrection is a tale of Celtic warriors who have turned on each other and fought amongst themselves. One of their own betrays the other lords, and initiates mass-killing and mass death; he sacrifices himself as a means of redemption and acceptance back into the fold.

Arthurian myth turns right at the point where the Celtic pagan became Christian, and the cauldron became the Grail. Arthur's knight, Percival, with the Grail Cup. Arthur Hacker (1858-1919), The Temptation of Sir Percival (1894). Image Source: BBC. The painting is in the Leeds Art Gallery (LEEAG.PA.1895.0013).

The Celtic cauldron was a predecessor to the Holy Grail in northern Europe. By the 12th century, medieval Christian doctrine transformed the cauldron's abominable symbol, from a grisly instrument of evil resurrection to a tool of sacred regeneration through resurrection, known as the Holy Grail. That means that as ancient societies stabilized, their view of death changed. The symbol at the heart of their stories essentially stayed the same, but the spiritual message around resurrection became a tale of heaven rather than hell. The cauldron became conflated with the Chalice that Jesus supposedly used at the Last Supper. In the 20th century, the Nazis launched an actual search for the Grail, to lay claim to their share of Celtic heritage and Romantic reworkings of Christian legend, while conflating both traditions with the Aryan Cup of Jamshid, a mythical artifact that enabled the ancient rulers of Greater Persia to see the future.

Monday, July 6, 2015

ISIS and Post-Diluvian Amnesia


A sphinx on the seafloor off the shores of Alexandria, Egypt. Image Source: All That is Interesting.

The Middle East is the source of all civilization on this planet. Any conflict there stirs the shared memory of all human beings. On 3 July 2015, days after ISIS or ISIL called for a jihad in the Balkans and declared caliphates in the Caucasus and GazaBreitbart reported that the radical Islamic movement has announced it will destroy the Egyptian sphinx and pyramids as a sacred duty:
ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi told followers of his terror group that destroying Egypt’s national monuments, such as the pyramids and the sphinx, is a “religious duty” that must be carried out by those who worship Islam, as idolatry is strictly banned in the religion, according to reports. UK radical Islamist Anjem Choudary echoed Baghdadi’s sentiments, telling The Telegraph: “When Egypt comes under the auspices of the Khalifa [Caliphate], there will be no more pyramids, no more Sphinx, no more idolatry,” saying that the ancient statues’s destruction “will be just.” Another Islamist preacher, Ibrahim Al Kandari, agrees that the cultural monuments need to be destroyed to comply with the Shariah. “The fact that early Muslims who were among prophet Mohammed’s followers did not destroy the pharaohs’ monuments upon entering Egypt does not mean that we shouldn’t do it now,” he told Al-Watan.
ISIS has already made its name destroying the older ruins of ancient Mesopotamia. Why is ISIS so threatened by these ruins? As the video lecture below the jump makes clear, the 5,000-year-old Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh is sexually intense, even by today's standards (read it here). Gilgamesh is also the foundation myth to end all foundation myths - it is the core story of our common civilization. It is the source material for our very understanding of organized social life. The opening lines to the 15,000 word work read:

"He who saw all, who was the foundation of the land,
"Who knew (everything), was wise in all matters.
"Gilgamesh, who saw all, who was the foundation of the land,
"Who knew (everything), was wise in all matters."

While there undoubtedly were many other epics sung in humanity's 100,000 to 50,000 years of prehistory, Gilgamesh is the earliest example we have. Its language marks the start of written history and that history begins with a cataclysm, a 'time before' and 'time after.' The story of all peoples is one of this terrible disaster, where great societies had arisen and then been destroyed by an archaic Flood. Most famous among these legendary antediluvian societies is Atlantis. J. R. R. Tolkien constructed part of his Middle Earth stories around an Atlantis idea, in which his hero, Aragorn, is descended from antediluvian superpeopleGilgamesh describes that watershed, that moment at which people still remembered what was before, and what came after. It is likely that Gilgamesh's antediluvian and post-diluvian claim to primacy constitutes the indelible and eternal cultural threat which so unsettles the ISIS zealots.








It unsettles - but also inspires them! The Millennial mind fixates on the turn of ages, and no such time is more fundamental than the Flood, which was likely (if you believe quasi-historical theorists like Graham Hancock) an account of the ending of the Ice Age. If you wanted to understand ISIS's motives in a nutshell, look at their obsession with the Flood. They constantly borrow from the Flood myth, meaning that they intend to create a new watershed moment with a flood of blood to wash the world and erase its memory of what came before. They want to construct a new turning point and create a new reality. Directly below and after the jump, hear the opening of the Epic of Gilgamesh sung in its original language and hear it recited in English.

Peter Pringle performs. "By 2000 B.C., the language of Sumer had almost completely died out and was used only by scholars (like Latin is today). No one knows how it was pronounced because it has not been heard in 4000 years. What you hear in this video are a few of the opening lines of part of the epic poem, accompanied only by a long-neck, three-string, Sumerian lute known as a "gish-gu-di". The instrument is tuned to G - G - D, and although it is similar to other long neck lutes still in use today (the tar, the setar, the saz, etc.) the modern instruments are low tension and strung with fine steel wire. The ancient long neck lutes (such as the Egyptian "nefer") were strung with gut and behaved slightly differently. ... The location for this performance is the courtyard of Nebuchadnezzar's palace in Babylon. The piece is four minutes long and is intended only as a taste of what the music of ancient Sumer might have sounded like." Video Source: Youtube.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

No Dislike Button: Social Media's Utopian Judgements and Misjudgements


Image Source: RLBPhotoart via Ghost Hunting Theories.

The blog is back! You know that gradual sense of erosion, the haunting of a Millennial mind as it over-surfs through a day that starts with optimism and ends with futility? How do social media contribute to a day's drift toward despair? In a New Yorker article from October 2014, Joshua Rothman criticized Facebook's fake optimism, its missing 'dislike' button, its relentless insistence that we like everything and constantly cough up happy thoughts and accomplishments to build a smiley online community (Hat tip: Daniel Neville). Rothman sees Facebook as an arena, where participants compete as greatest contributors to collective happiness, equated with a complex of good attitudes and real outputs as proof that good attitudes work. Beneath that, there is a misjudgement of those who are not sharing enough good attitude tidbits, or enough evidence of personal success. Rothman thus concludes that Facebook is one of the Web's Kafkaesque lower courts of judgement:
Facebook, like much of the Web, is officially designed to encourage positivity; there is no “dislike” button, and the stated goal is to facilitate affiliation and belonging. But, over time, the site’s utopian social bureaucracy has been overwhelmed by the Kafkaesque churn of punishment. ... Facebook has become a dream space of judgment—a place where people you may know only in the most casual way suddenly reveal themselves to be players in a pervasive system of discipline. The site is an accusation aggregator, and the news feed is the docket—full of opportunities to publicly admire the good or publicly denigrate the bad, to judge others for their mistakes or to be judged for doing it wrong.

Not all of Facebook is devoted to overt judgment and punishment, of course; there are plenty of cute family photos and fun listicles floating around. But even superficially innocuous posts can have a hearing-like, evidentiary aspect. (Paranoia, unfortunately, is inevitable in a Kafkaesque world.) The omnipresent “challenge”—one recent version, the “gratitude challenge,” asks you to post three things you’re grateful for every day for five days—is typically Kafkaesque: it’s punishment beneath a veneer of positivity, an accusation of ingratitude against which you must prove your innocence. ... Occasionally, if you post a selfie after your 10K or announce a new job, you might be congratulated for “doing it right.” But what feels great in your feed takes on, in others’ feeds, the character of what evolutionary psychologists call “altruistic punishment”—that is, punishment meted out to those who aren’t contributing to the good of the community.
Social media's stick-wielding positivity is divorced from human experience, while constantly appealing to experience as proof of its viability. You had better build the happiness of your online community, little Boot-camper. Or else. Positive cultural motivation supposedly drives productivity; except it doesn't. In this fake positive culture, dominated by Facebook's small egotists, success becomes meta-performance, which does not mirror the protracted work and grit needed to accomplish anything substantial. Anyone remotely sensitive to actual positives and negatives is left enervated, isolated, alienated, depressed.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Modernity, Myth and the Scapegoat: Martin Heidegger, J. R. R. Tolkien and ISIL


Heidegger, at the centre of the photo, in the era of Nazi academia. Image Source: Le phiblogZophe.

Two paths diverged in the wood. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. In 2014, the private notebooks of German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) - muse of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida and Hannah Arendt - saw print. The publication of the so-called Black Notebooks confirmed that Heidegger's philosophy grew out of support for the Nazis and an essential anti-Semitism. Oceans of ink have been spilt over what Heidegger meant by Dasein, or Being-in-the-World (his union of subjective, objective and conscious perspectives with the world at large), but this elaborate existential debate completely misses the historical context which informed Heidegger's thought. Heidegger associated his cherished idea of Authentic Existence with the values of agrarian Europe. For the German philosopher, rootless Jews were part of a new, supranational world of corporate industry, banking and trade. Jewish precursors of globalization contributed to an inauthenticity of being, a life whereby everyday people, distanced from the soil, became phantom slaves in a technology-driven world that destroyed traditional culture.

The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854-1856). Image Source: Wiki.

It is too simplistic to dismiss Heidegger's thoughts on being and time as aspects of the Nazi narrative. But it is also wrong to say that his ideas can be read separately from their Nazi context. Heidegger was in the same ballpark, and that demands a serious reappraisal of his ideas.

In building their Aryan mythology against the Jews, the Nazis ironically appropriated the Hebraic concept of scapegoating. The scapegoat was originally an early Archaic, pre-Classical improvement (dating from around the seventh century BCE) on the sacrificial rites of other ancient societies. Scapegoating, a mental gambit which is alive and well today, occurs when one projects one's sins onto a goat and sends it off into the desert to die; this leaves one free from blame and responsibility, and able to get on with life without feeling guilty for one's wrongdoings.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Of Moons and Hobbits


Still from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Image Source: Collider.

It may surprise some that space colonization is already in the planning stages. Earlier today, India launched its Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan ('Mars craft'), due to arrive at the Red Planet next year, as part of the new Asian space race. See coverage at Spaceports here.There is great interest in the vast resources of space (see my earlier posts here and here), especially Saturn's moon Titan (see bitcoin chatter here). Long before we possess the ability to reach and inhabit interplanetary destinations, the spacefaring countries of the world are mapping and naming them (the relevant UN document regarding space exploration and colonization, the Moon Treaty, is here). See comments on interplanetary territorial claims here and here.

Map of Titan (click to enlarge). Image Source: Europlanet.

According to Wiki, the "International Astronomical Union names all colles (small hills) on ... Titan after characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's work. In 2012, they named a hilly area 'Bilbo Colles' after Bilbo Baggins." You can see the Astronomical Union record for the hill here and current maps of the moon, here, here and here. Rarely have the frontiers of the old legends, modern imagination, and the future so clearly overlapped.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Curse of Tolkien's One Ring


The Vyne ring, aka the Ring of Silvianus. Image Source: BBC.

BBC has reported on the likely original source for Sauron's One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien's stories. The history of the ring is complicated. It was found in a farmer's field near Silchester, in Hampshire, UK, in 1785. In 1929, with Tolkien's help, archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler connected the ring to a curse tablet in a late Roman Celtic temple in Gloucestershire, 100 miles away. The curse tablet describes a stolen ring. The area around the temple was also awash in superstitions about elves and dwarves. It is commonly believed that this research helped inspire Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937) and the The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cave Houses: Bridges between Pre-History and the Present



Continuity with the distant past is alive and well in many cave dwellings around the world. I09 has just published a piece on cave houses, some of which have been continuously inhabited for between 2,000 and 9,000 years! They also included the cave houses in the UK which inspired J. R. R. Tolkien's hobbit holes. All of these examples show how different societies carved their civilizations right out of the environment, while living in harmony with it. They also in the most graphic and clearest possible way show the origins of architecture, masonry, and brick-built houses. See more photos, including similar sites in Asia, in the i09 article.

Above: Yunak Evleri Cave Hotel, Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey: "This hotel is a combination of six cave houses with a total of 39 rooms from the 5th and 6th centuries and a 200-year-old Greek mansion," via Yunak Evleri Press Room.



Above: Cave homes and a chapel in Louresse-Rochemenier, France: via Wikimedia Commons/Pymouss44, Tango7174 and GaMip.

Above: Sassi di Matera, Matera, Italy: "These houses were dug into the rock itself, and it's the only place in the world where people have been continuously inhabiting the sames houses for the last 9,000 years," via  Tango7174.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who Can Stand and Dare to Dream?


I Dreamed of a Crocodile by Eyes-of-Sol. Image Source: Redbubble.

Check out this teaser for an epic fantasy novel, by writer D. Caldarelli aka Lorronzo. His work touches on the need to weaken ego to cope with changing times:

Challenge of the Seasons by D. Caldarelli

For every season there is a trial, and for every trial a hardship. Many do not pass such times, but many others do. So what is the trick? Do we take like the rocks, both stubborn and strong, and fight the seasons one by one? Do we take to the wisdom of the trees who mould to every change? Or the vast expanses of the timeless rivers? All have survived the age of seasons and are masters in their own ways, but none have truly mastered the might of the seasons. With time even the largest of rocks can crumble and break. A single tongue of flame can consume entire forests. And a dry age can devour the largest of rivers. So what hope do we mere specks of dust have to fight the struggle of the ever changing age of trials?

To survive the test of the seasons you must take to the wisdom of all the masters around you. You must unyielding, stubborn and strong like the rock. You must be wise and as adaptable as the tree. And you must flow as easy as the river. But more than this, you must adopt the greatest lesson life has to teach you, numbers. There is no I, only we. A rock that stands alone, as strong as it may be, will falter and chip away with time until it is but a grain. But together with the help of their brethren one rock can help to form a mountain, vast and immovable to stand against the test of time. Even the countless grains of sand that stand together can hold back the wrath of the thundering sea. A tree that stands alone falls alone to the harsh weather, but together they can form the greatest of forests, stretching as far as the eye can see, protecting each other in many ways. And though a single stream may thin and loose its way, when built with another a river can be forged. An alliance of power and might, standing against even the harshest of heats and strong enough to clear any obstacle that stands in its way. But it doesn't stop there. There are many masters in life that can teach us if we are willing to listen. My heart and ears are open, and my hand is held to you: my ally, my brethren, my friend.

-- © D. Caldarelli

"When Shadows hunt and nightmares scream, who can stand and dare to dream?" © D. Caldarelli

Hat tip: Youtube and dA.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wonders of the Millennial World 5: Sehnsucht and Written Dreams


Recently, John Hornor tweeted: "When I was in my 20s, every guy I met played guitar and was in a band. Now I'm 40, and everyone I meet is a novelist." Yesterday's post on saudade as a nostalgia for a lost, pre-tech world continues with a similar kind of longing today, Sehnsucht. This is the longing to be, or be part of, something larger than ourselves.

Wiki quotes psychologists' definitions of Sehnsucht:
Psychologists have worked to capture the essence of Sehnsucht by identifying its six core characteristics: “(a) utopian conceptions of ideal development; (b) sense of incompleteness and imperfection of life; (c) conjoint time focus on the past, present, and future; (d) ambivalent (bittersweet) emotions; (e) reflection and evaluation of one's life; and (f) symbolic richness." ... Some researchers posit that Sehnsucht has a developmental function that involves life management. By imagining overarching and possibly unachievable goals, individuals may be able to create direction in their life by developing more tangible goals, or “stepping stones” that will aide them on their path toward their ideal self." [Sehnsucht has] important developmental functions, including giving directionality for life planning and helping to cope with loss and important, yet unattainable wishes by pursuing them in one's imagination." It can also operate as a self-regulatory mechanism.
Sehnsucht was an important type of idealism for English writer C. S. Lewis:
Lewis described Sehnsucht as the "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what." In the afterword to the third edition of The Pilgrim's Regress he provided examples of what sparked this desire in him particularly: That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.
In Lewis's terms, Sehnsucht resembles a yearning similar to that evoked in this post about the world created by Lewis's friend, J. R. R. Tolkien. It is the ineffable call of 'home,' expressed through emotion and metaphor. Tolkien was interested in creating a fantasy world which brought to life our original hopes and dreams, as well as our consciousness of a lost, great land which existed in mythical terms before memory and before history.

In the western imagination, that lost land lies further in the west, and is often embodied in rumours of Atlantis. In the eastern imagination, a similar lost land lies further in the east and is described in myths of Fusang. In India, the lost continent of myth is Lemuria, which lies to the imaginary south. Most major civilizations have this common thread of displaced yearning and memory, often expressed in symbolic terms as a lost land.

Our lost lands now are virtual. The Web is effectively the terra incognita, and there is a desperate push to find its limits, its outward borders. Once thus encapsulated by our understanding, perhaps the Web will become the new Promised Land. To get back to John Hornor's comment about novelists, the explosion of written output on the Internet might be a response to the Sehnsucht that has arisen in the hearts of countless small authors. If the Millennium is characterized by the destruction and reworking of old values, a confusion about the old order and loss of norms, there is a push in equal measure to find sources of inspiration. In other words, civilization is not teetering on the brink of implosion. It is not a black hole about to swallow itself. The vacuum is being filled, at an incredible rate.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Favourite Journeys to Middle Earth

Legolas and Gimli on the cover, the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

In 2012, the first part film version of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, attracted less excitement than the LOTR a decade ago. I think that is because we are so used to CGI effects by now and the story was somewhat decompressed. I thought the whole cast was great - especially  Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. Audiences are jaded, because Hollywood has gorged on CGI.

Smaug from the 1977 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age. 

Goldberry from the 1977 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

After I learned to read, the first real book I read was The Hobbit. And long before Peter Jackson, when Boomers were still spraypainting Frodo Lives! on alley walls, there was a minor industry making paraphenalia around The Hobbit (1937), the Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) and The Silmarillion (1977).

The Ring of Galadriel from the 1976 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.
 
Bilbo at Rivendell from the 1976 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

What nostalgia to see The Golden Age blog post all 36 paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt from the 1976, 1977 and 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien calendars - here! I still have the original calendars tucked away. That post inspired me to scour the Web for some compelling depictions of Middle Earth; although my most recent favourite is the Middle Earth meditation series. I think the LOTR films likely influenced many Millennial artists whose work does not explicitly refer to Tolkien, such as Zoë Keating.

The Pillars of the Kings from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

Farmer Maggot's Hospitality from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

See my finds below the jump. They point one way or another to Tolkien's parables on good and evil, heroism and weakness, drawn partly from his musings on the past from prehistory, from ancient and medieval languages and cultures, and from World War I. With the exceptions below, I have yet to find convincing depictions of Orcs, a race of ruined and corrupted Elves. If you have a favourite depiction of Middle Earth you would like to suggest, write to me and I will post it in this collection.

Shelob from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age. 

Saruman and the Palantir from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.

Beorn the Berserker from the 1978 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar. Image © by the Brothers Hildebrandt via The Golden Age.