What defines which subjects or what lens you view life from? It is a varied array of things which make your identity, and create the process of conscious and subconscious decisions that will define your position towards certain topics and life itself.
For me, an unquestionable fact is my partially Christian upbringing, I was baptised and did my first Communion, and I managed to skip catechesis lessons because I really didn’t care about being a good Christian, which my parents saw as the compromise they had to make in order for me to follow the family tradition. I studied and was lectured about the lessons of the Bible. If anything, I cared about having a certain set of values which happen to beshare with a good christian’s morals: honesty, fairness and having sympathy and empathy towards my fellow living beings. From then onwards I have found myself to be rather critical of the institution, not because of their mythology or beliefs, but due to the man- run institution which represents in my views, a hypocritical judge and jury of the core which they believe in. I do not like the way in which it is unquestioned, for answering absolutely every matter of the face of this earth with a biblical metaphor, thus leading to the sheepish following without any sense of individuality or reason. In my view, they create misinformation and a voracious anthropocentric ego which feeds into the institution of power-driven rhetorics. I view the Bible as a “harmless” text written in riddles, a metaphor if you will of the very real events which occurred to man and had to be explained or used as a warning for future generations. Taking the Bible literally, is, Id comparable to worshipping someone’s personal diary which could simply be a novel or a personal reflection of his or her views on the society at the time.
This being said, I do not deny of my upbringing, it has informed my critical thinking process from early on as well as providing me with my own path upon which I look at the different forms of worship and life. The beauty of religion is that like Greek mythology has produced a flooding of rational, spiritual, political and moral thinking. Artists have for centuries created a pantheon of ‘superheroes’, who are still to this day remembered in some form, informing everything from architecture to philosophy and the very base of our consciousness as a collective. It’s not about the actual facts anymore, but it is about people’s imaginations and search for facts, looking for the answer as to why we exist. As an agnostic, I try not to close my mind to being informed by new elements of culture, with a particular accent in not buying anyone’s creed, but as a human being, mystery and myth ignites my imagination, even though I probably prefer to answer questions of tangibility and matter with science, I grow as a person by exploring our collective need for magic.
That bit contextualised, I would like to explain how the tower of Babel resonated strongly with the concept we where discussing after Anthony’s exhibition at the V&A.
In my view, (regardless of historical links to archaeological findings of Etemenaki, one of the greatest ziggurats of the time, whom Alexander the great intended to restore) the story of the tower of Babylon is a metaphor for human greed, ego and a rather intricate analogy of how humans can do great and terrible things when united by a common cause. It does not explain in any way shape or form how humanity actually branched out linguistically as it has done. In fact, my own recent research and discovery of the study of language have proven to me that language is a living thing, which adapts more to the environment and the necessity for expansion and modernisation parallel to man’s evolution. Thus, I view the chapter as a quasi-philosophical text, in which analogy is used to teach, not preach about human nature.
Threaded this way, I viewed it as a great platform which unites different contexts in which my colleagues and I were informed, and could potentially be a perspective easy to grasp for the audience. On that alone, and the incredible symmetry between “Babel” and “Babble” I proposed it as a solution from which to evolve our linguistic interpretation of the dance. Miranda even deepened on that divide by contextualising it in the modern day, with discrimination of foreigners and ‘otherness’. This for me confirms the way in which we can interpret and recycle ideas, not to preach to the dated choir, but to create our own examination of reality using a context that remains to be questioned due to its inconspicuous presence in society.
Miranda’s criticism towards the modern conceptualization of the fear of the foreign resonates for me a great deal with Brughel the old’s Flemish painting of the tower of Babel. The figure in the foreground is a bricklayer paying his respects to the King, with the background looking a lot lie Brughel’s city Antwerp. Indeed, it is about Nimrod, grandson of Noah and first sovereign of humanity, who seems to curse his vassals. Although the scene gives rise to speculations, I tend to think that it is a criticism of the stubbornness of the rulers who blame others for their delusions of grandeur. And this may make sense because many authors consider this work as a criticism of the Habsburgs. Brughel is using the tower of Babel as a platform to criticise society and political leaders as well as the ever-growing ego it foments.
It came as a shock when Victoria did not want to expand on an idea such as this merely because of a complete rejection of the symbology it might attract. I feel it was undermined and quickly discarded without too much thought, but discussing it with her I realised It might not be the best way to display equity across the board, and If a member is not willing to work on something that she categorically rejects as a person, who am I to decide for her what her work might be associated with?
It was an interesting conversation although heated, and I look forward to being able to have more discussions like these, with people patient enough to not just scoff and go away with their own views untouched, leaving mine scaldingly unrefuted too.
Nowadays I realise it is harder to have a diplomatic conversation in which all parties involved might disagree, yet endeavour to make their case and to allow cross-pollination of ideas shift perspectives, very much in a Socratic questioning manner. I will endeavour to seek out places and people who allow for this, and I will try to transfer this into my own life, infusing it in conversations which I have with people who reject questioning of their views. The ultimate goal is to expand one’s own views and perspective, and in the way, to affect whomever my interlocutor might be, the only way to give back my own passion for information.