The writing is on the wall

Rembrandt: Belshazzar's Feast (circa 1635-1638)

Rembrandt: Belshazzar’s Feast (circa 1635-1638)

“Belshazzar’s Feast is described in the Book of Daniel.” The Wikipedia article, Belshazzar’s Feast, gives only the barest outline of the story: “Babylonian king Belshazzar profanes the sacred vessels of the enslaved Israelites. As prophesied by the writing on the wall, and interpreted by Daniel, Belshazzar is killed and Darius the Mede succeeds to his kingdom.” But the article does include a comprehensive list of the many works of art and music which depict the story.

Wikipedia’s overarching article Belshazzar gives more detail, but you might also want to read Wikipedia: The writing on the wall, which explains that “As those at the feast profaned the sacred vessels pillaged from the Jerusalem Temple, a disembodied hand appeared and wrote on the palace wall the words, ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin’. The visionary Daniel was summoned and interpreted this message as the imminent end for the Babylonian kingdom.”

The Babylonian ruler (co-regent with Nabonidus, his father) is killed and his kingdom goes to Darius the Mede … and the Israelites remain in captivity. The Jewish Encyclopedia provides details of the sacrilegious ruler’s death.

The phrase, “the writing is on the wall” and its variants have passed into common usage – usually indicating awareness of some imminent and/or inevitable stroke of fate.

I find the Belshazzar’s Feast narrative interesting in terms of its structure. Would it occur to the wealthy – feasting in plush restaurants while their gated fortresses and garage doors are bombed by taggers – that they, like Belshazzar, are receiving messages from the Hand of God? Probably not. By the way, there is an interesting twist: it is the feast itself – and not the writing on the wall – which constitutes the act of desecration.

The images presented below were captured on 25 April 2014. Three shots of the same tag, they do not pretend to the divine; on the contrary, they endeavour to do nothing more than deconstruct an inter-textual artefact – emptying out the conflictual aspect of the tagger’s having defaced a wall previously painted to advertise and promote Orchestra Wellington and suggesting instead a new set of “artistic” values.

on the wall #01(25 April 2014)

on the wall #01 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #02 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #02 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #03 (25 April 2014)

on the wall #03 (25 April 2014)

But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to timeanddate.com, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from catholicmemes.com – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From mickiemuellerart.com)

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.

Reading between the lines

words on face (20 May 2013)

words on face (20 May 2013)

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In the public library.

Browsing the latest issue of ArtForum (May 2013), leafing rapidly through page after page of advertisements.

There’s always a pen and paper handy: poems often happen when I’m reading.

I’d gone past, but needed to go back and find it again: words were beginning to form …

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There are words
written all over my face

I see words
in the mirror

If you bother to read me
……… take the time to read me

I doubt you’d have understood
even if you’d read carefully

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__________

The image shown here is a detail of my re-photographing of the magazine advertisement referred to above.

Further information: http://www.faurschou.com/

http://vernissage.tv/blog/2013/05/15/shirin-neshat-the-book-of-kings-faurschou-foundation-beijing/

Meditating on the cross

chi rho (23 Jun 2012)

chi rho (23 Jun 2012)

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The Staurogram (monogram of the cross) or Tau-Rho symbol is comprised of a tau (Τ) superimposed on a rho (Ρ). (Wikipedia: Christian symbolism)

The Chi-Rho symbol was also used by pagan Greek scribes to mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage; the combined letters Chi and Rho standing for chrēston, meaning “good”. (Wikipedia: Chi Rho)

The mysterious cypher appeared on the newly-laid asphalt near my apartment during June 2012. And there it remains to this day, awaiting the commencement of who-knows-what piece of work?

Given the significance that one might attach to such symbols, I am careful not to trample it underfoot.

While it serves me well as a focus of devout respect and meditation, I will be interested to see the work begin … whatever it might be, and whenever it might happen.

The passage into silence

Rumi image by Sandra Lesvigne

Rumi image by Sandra Lesvigne

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Hear the passage into silence and be that. (Rumi)

Silence is the language of God,
all else is poor translation. (Rumi)

The world is everything that is the case. … Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)

It is the party season, and there is a lot of noise.

In recent days, I have become increasingly weary of arrogant and loud-mouthed persons – certain of them not even fuelled by alcohol – sounding off about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Richard Dawkins, for one, would do well to keep silent on matters whereof one cannot speak.

__________

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, and more popularly in the English-speaking world simply as Rumi, was a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic. (Wikipedia