Monday, March 24, 2008

Egyptian evening

They say there's no use lamenting what is gone forever. Still, I feel sorrow not only when I read about some plant or animal vanishing forever, but also at other losses: the extinction of languages, cultures, even a business closing.

I spent last evening immersed in Egyptology. I spent time on that subject years ago before diving into Greece and Rome -- each a world that a lifetime of study will barely touch. I go back now and then, with the limited time that I have.

How I hate time! How I hate the brevity and limitations of this mortal existence. Give me Aladdin's lamp and I would tear free of those chains. I would sup with Socrates and listen to Jenny Lind in a live performance. I would learn Chinese and spend a season as a rice farmer; I would walk across the world, stopping in every city and village long enough to live and love there.

Back to Egyptology. It seems sad to me that such a complex, intellectually rich and long-lasting culture -- from the rituals of Osiris to the mysteries of Isis, from Horus to Min, Maat to Thoth -- is utterly gone, known now only to academic specialists.


Ela (braveheart) said...

What is it that long us to the past of greatness?

what do you think of reincarnation?

The time was on my mind yesterday actually, and how it speeds..

Good day Mister

Janice Thomson said...

I so agree ECD. Egypt and its past culture has always fascinated me. I received a book from a friend called 'Rebel In The Soul' a delightful read of a dialogue between doubt and mystical knowledge with a tremendous commentary in the back - Do try to find it - I know you will like it.

Janice Thomson said...

Oops forgot: Rebel In The Soul is by Bika Reed

Ela (braveheart) said...

I sense time of doubt in your writings lately.

I love this title "Rebel in the soul". ( I did not read this book, but the title is fantastic)

eastcoastdweller said...

Ela: I'm not a believer in reincarnation. Although, of course, the building blocks that make up our bodies do get recycled.

Reincarnation seems to be a punishment or a reward for how one acted as a human.

So, say you were a greedy human and some cosmic judge decrees that you will therefore be reborn as a pig. What then? Who decides, and how do they decide, whether you lived your pig life the way you should and you therefore deserve another chance to be human.

eastcoastdweller said...

Janice: Because I respect You, and value Your opinion, I will search out that book and add it to my reading list.

As for doubts, Ela and Janice, I suppose we all hit a point where we wake up and wonder. The fantasies of my childhood were wonderful but I had to grow up and leave them behind. The tenets of my faith are wonderful but doubt nags me, nags, nags, nags --is it all just the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus? Then what of the many men and Women, people of great wisdom and intelligence, who seem to have been able to cling to their beliefs?

I see a glorious universe, on the one hand such a possible testament to a Creator's hand. Then I think about polio, guinea worms and the longevity of horrible dictators.

Certainly, the world doesn't have to be a place where God allows nothing bad to happen and free will is obliterated, but we could have done without polio, methinks, and our human scientists are very close to wiping it out now anyway.

We could have done without Stalin and Hitler -- would the universe have spun out of control if such ghastly men had never been born, if the divine hand had quietly arranged for a miscarriage before they were born?

I read the Bible and marvel at the wisdom that shines on its pages. Then I wonder about its justifications for genocide and for overtly and subtly downgrading Women.

I read of Jesus and find the account of His life to be so amazing and I long for Him to be real. But if He is real, if He is who the Bible says He is, then His return is promised by that same book -- WHEN? It's been 2,008 years and counting.

I want to believe. I keep on going through the motions, hoping someday that I will win back the faith that I had as a child.

Ela (braveheart) said...

where did the egyptians go, after death?

I greatly understand the point we all hit and we wake up and wonder.

Daily, I hear the birds singing and close my eyes and go to my childhood. How wonderful it was not to cross over to the future or past, just be in the present and pretend, but never living the now.

I appriciate this conversation with You very much.
Yes, we all wonder at one time or another.

eastcoastdweller said...

Ela: I'm no expert on ancient Egypt but it seems that two, possibly contradictory things were believed to happen after death.

The ba (the soul) left the (mummified) body and enjoyed the items left in the burial chamber but returned to the body regularly, as we would come home to a house in the evening.

The other scenario is this: The heart of the deceased was weighed by Thoth on scales against the feather of Maat, who was the Goddess of Justice.

If it balanced, because the person had been righteous, then the person ascended to heaven, to Re, to dwell with the gods or even to become as the gods.

If it didn't balance, the heart was thrown to a beast to be eaten and the naughty dead guy had to spend eternity in duat, the underworld.

Of course, there is SO much more -- the concept of the sun's death each night and then being restored to life in duat by contact with Osiris, who had been killed by Seth but was restored to life, fittingly, by the assistance of a Goddess.

The assumption of the persona of the gods in ritual.

Oh, I can't even begin to explain it all. It's complex, beautiful, so very intriguing!

eastcoastdweller said...

Ela: Oh, You have to restore the comment function on Your blog!

Ela (braveheart) said...

Yes, it is so intriguing!
and the most desirable is the heaven..

it is said that god's gift is life's eternal.

okay, to your next comment.

for that I'll post my newest version of cosmos.

Rebecca said...

You will have worn out that genie's lamp, ECD :)

I understand fully the waking up and wondering. It has lead me in interesting directions lately. I don't know if I believe in reincarnation or not, but I do question the faith that I have been taught to practice. In so doing, I decided to change the direction of my search from the external divinity to the internal, from searching for signs of goodness in the world, to searching for signs of goodness in myself. I have found Yoga, Meditation, and Buddhism interesting, calming and centering lately, to body, mind and spirit.

I believe Jesus Christ was a living, breathing human being, as was Mohammad. I believe that their philosophies have been wildly perverted by the generations of people that came after them, and founded institutions and spilled blood in their names. I believe that there are those that emulate their character in the world, and therefore, you can say, Christ has returned. Just not in the way spelled out in Revelations...a book more akin to some texts in the old testament that were designed to scare the snot out of humanity in order to control behavior.

What if we just believed in our own intrinsic goodness, and radiated that out to include everything and everyone else with whom we come into contact. Would that not disrupt the seemingly endless parade of extinctions? Is the extinction of the self that engenders extinction in the world, or is it the extinctions and devaluations in the world that engender the extinction and devaluation of the self?

Ela (braveheart) said...

I am not sure what to think of reincarnation, but deep down inside I believe we are able, if we want to to come back again and again.
Maybe as a punishement or reward, or as a free will.
The freedom of the spirit?

who knows?

Good day to All