Saturday, September 18, 2010

Age and Aeons

Science is hip and modern but study about the ages, and literature that includes the past is a valuable part of human culture. While visiting Amherst College today, I had a run in with many objects of varying age and it really makes me think about how ancient the earth is.

To begin, there was Stearns Steeple, the left over stone spire that the college kept even after razing the church that was built in 1870. Standing rather close, the roughness of the dark stone carries more emotion than the smooth, mellow concrete of today's architecture. As a nice "duality of age" aspect there was a TV in the steeple's first floor constantly running old home movies of an anonymous family. I'd go so far as to say the movies were from the 70's, due to their grainy nature (though I am no connoisseur of film integrity by a long shot). A wonderful 100 year gap gives stark realization to the advancement the world went through during that time.

Traveling further back, I saw the first of man's creations in the "ancient artifacts" section of Amherst's Mead Art Museum.

An old Greek helmet, African bead hat, tablets of assyrian cuneiform, and a feint Egyptian relief some 4,500 years old. That is amazing. Forget considering the smallness of an atom or the grandness of the solar system, how can a human being contemplate that fact that there was another human being, nearly genetically identical, who lived a long time ago in a land far, far away? (I couldn't resist). It's mind-boggling to realize artists have always been a part of human culture. Creators who master deathless stone and canvas that supersedes their mortality.

As another artistic ode to changing times. There was a pair of paintings titled "Past" and "Present". The former depicted a Medieval era fairground. The main action was the joust, and the scene was a snapshot at the instant before the lances of both riders collide with their respective shields. Behind the colorful bleachers rose a small yet regal castle set on the side of a lush hill.

The "Present" showed the same scene but the with no fair, no peasants and chivalrous heroes, just goats, shepherds, and the hulking ruins of the castle tower. Although still lush, the country side seemed more cynical and dark, as if to laugh at the decay it caused.

Finally, the final step of my mental odyssey was at the school's Natural History Museum.

Here where the truly old relics spawned at the beginning/a tad before the age of humans. Mammoth, Mastodon, Smilodon, the dire wolf. All ancient beings. Life older than human art. Unbelievable. I feel gigantic mirth when considering the wonder of the ages the Earth has lived.

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