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Heterodox bestiary
essay [ ]

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by [VeronicaValeanu ]

2009-07-28  |     | 

Vied backwards, always as a twice-told tale by the sloganeering post-modernist art, religion seems to be the best antidote of itself, just because the top-down theory of God’s mutations in us is about to be exhausted. As soon as we build a halo, we set out to destroy it.

As long as it considers itself an indestructible sacred monster, the post-modernist product feeds on its own tail/tale, unaware that it’s exactly this method ad infinitum that will eventually shrink its dimension.
There is even the concept of “regenerationist decadence” (pointed out by Matei Calinescu in “Five Faces of Modernity”) that allows post-modernism worshippers to believe in its power, by complaining about the effects of this wane, yet believing in the possibility of a future renaissance. The author has an interesting perspective upon this ring-like propulsion of post-modernism even from within a religious approach. Thus, he asserts that the religious, traditional civilizations worshipped the virtues of an economizing principle of viewing life, in a moderate frame (nothing but a form of postponing consumerism).

Yet, let’s see how the monster gains in dimension.

Unlike the usual consumer, the art consumer doesn’t exhaust the object they enjoy.
There has always been this anxiety of exhausting itself. That’s why we prefer to glorify something, rather than destroy its halo.
There is an unwritten rule in art consumerism that does a good guesswork about the “law of art’s inefficiency”- the consumers may harm the halo of an artistic product by abusing of too much exposure (e. g. Mona Lisa). It is thus recommended to blur the limits of the impact by administrating glory (cf. gr. “doxa”, glory), a state of grace which blocks our perception outside it in a contemplative, inaccessible mood that acts like a shield of protection against time erosion.

In his “Homo Sacer”* (1995), Giorgio Agamben made a distinction between glory (a privilege available only to God) and glorification, a product of the first. And the best level of impact was found in the media, the public opinion. Whatever remained erstwhile inscribed in the liturgical spheres is now focused in the media, by the “government of consent”, a modern version of the power’s self-glorification ancestral mechanism.

And the monster from whom we feed on feeds us too in its turn. Not only monsters on each side of autoritas, but an entire teratology (the study of abnormality concerned with the malformations or serious deviations from any normal type of organism).

Should invisible occult conventions profane by repositioning the grandeur and the sacrosanct within the common use of what had formerly been done by sacredness?
There is only a single example of the wisest monster - in mythology (paradoxically, in the times when it had sufficient power for self-propulsion). This monster simply let itself profaned or at least, she knew it was high time for that, and the only thing she could do was to wait for the moment when his power should be dissolved: the Greek sphinx (represented as a monster with a head and breasts of a woman, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and a serpent-headed tail).
(Here, it’s time for us to wonder and smile: a woman and a serpent at the same time, wouldn’t it have been too much for the on-coming Christianity? – no wonder they had to split them and ensure a tension between.)
The Greek sphinx was a unique demon of destruction and bad luck. She is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked a riddle of travelers to allow them passage. The exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the stories, and was not standardized until late in Greek history.
It was the most famous riddle in history: “Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?” She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus solved the riddle by answering: Man — who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then walks with a cane in old age. Bested at last, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died. An alternative version tells that she devoured herself. Thus Oedipus can be recognized as a "liminal" or threshold figure, helping effect the transition between the old religious practices, and the new, much more self-aware ones.
Octavian Paler, in Subjective mythologies”, thought that the Greeks understood that a sphinx which asks questions is a hopeless one. (As soon as our race has become in danger of extinction, our answer will outlive.)
In a retelling of the Oedipus legend, The Infernal Machine, the Sphinx tells Oedipus the answer of the riddle, to kill herself so that she did not have to kill anymore, and also to make him love her. He leaves without ever thanking her for giving him the answer to the riddle. The scene ends when the Sphinx and Anubis, who is there to kill the victims who cannot answer the riddle, ascend back to the heavens. (The unused power of the process thus reconditioned, we would say nowadays. And the woman at her right place, unreachable yet despicable- she just does too much)

The Christianity even adopted a Janus-faced attitude towards woman (in fact, let’s admit it, woman is the root of all evil, but at the same time, the symbol of creativity).
The griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. In antiquity it was the guardian of the divine and a protector from evil. Being a union of a terrestrial beast and an aerial bird, it was seen in Christianity to be a symbol of Jesus, who was both human and divine.
In heraldry, the griffin's amalgamation of lion and eagle gains in courage and boldness, and it is always drawn as a powerful fierce monster. It is used to denote strength and military courage and leadership.

Mythology, religion, modern art, all in a top-down theory of getting sanctified by having resorted to the same old chimera, a narcissist one- built in the mirror.
Should we behead the monster and let its place empty or should we hybridize it more and more so that one day when this decision has been taken, to make sure that the more heads will roll to our feet, the more they will adapt to reappear, maybe increased tenfold? (an ortho-method, a masculine one)
Should we only threaten to kill post-modernist attitudes (laid back and relaxed, in a …spread-eagled way?) so that new territory should be activated and nothing should be lost, but gained? (a hetero-method, a feminine one)

In James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake there is a coinage that would perfectly reestablish the circuit of all worth matters and the same time the antidote of everything: sacreligion (not sacrilege).

*Homo sacer: (Latin for "the sacred man" or "the accursed man") is an obscure figure of Roman law: a person who is banned, may be killed by anybody, but may not be sacrificed in a religious ritual. The person is excluded from all civil rights, while his/her life is deemed "holy" in a negative sense.

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