Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Egyptians: continuity and permanence (security)

The Egyptians lived by the Nile. A river that always with it's flooding caused rebirth and new life this was a continuing process and the only thing permanent about it was that it always flooded and it always caused things to be new. It makes sense then that the Egyptians would be obsessed with permanence making something that would always be there when everything else along the shore always changed. Humans need a sense of security even if they find it in the continuing existence of a monolithic pyramid. The desert sand also always changed with all of it's storms. So, once again making something that would stand up to the desert wind and the test of time may be desirable for the Egyptians. And the pyramid was the perfect shape to stand up to anything.
The film we watched told a story of a fictional character who made his life to understand the building of the great pyramid in Giza. And when he finally did he realized that what he spent his life doing had made him indestructible along with the king. That his work had made him a permanent fixture like the king. That now he too would enjoy the fruits of the life here after with his king. It may very well be the case that the king's workers felt they too had eternal life because of their work on the pyramid. This sense of belonging and eternity likely also came from a desire for permanence, continuity, and security. Secure in the belief their work had not been for nothing. That it would always stand as a testament to their labor. No matter how many times the desert changed it's surface or the Nile it's width.
Basically, what I hope to make clear is that society needs security. A sense of continuity and permanence to establish itself. And that symbolically and literally the work of the great pyramids did that. If people spend too much time worrying about death and where their next meal is coming from organized community will not have a chance to take place. The building of the great pyramid represented the promise of the afterlife. Relieving people of the fear of death. Representing also the fruits of a great society that had great abundance. Whose people did not miss a meal. Who did not worry about food or shelter. Who always had what they needed. And it was delivered to them by the community that had made itself apart of building the pyramid.
So, I'm suggesting the great pyramid was a manifestation of what the Egyptians had made for themselves. A society that always had food provided to them by the rich soil on the shore of the always flooding Nile. A society that wanted for nothing even though desert surrounded them.
A people that embodied themselves in the icon of their king and his tomb. But it was more then a tomb. It was the mark of a society that overcame it's ever changing world and found permanence. Just like the unmoving polar stars they obsessed over in the sky.

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