Friday, February 07, 2014

Place


As I look back over my posts for the week, I realize that I appear to be obsessed with geckoes and hummingbirds. For those of you who visit here it must be a bit of a bore.

What's my excuse?

Partly, I suppose, it is the place. Not my cozy nook in the college library with diverse intellectual stimulation on every side, with Nature and Science arriving in my mailbox every week. Here I'm pretty much "reduced" to the Book of Nature, and although there remain therein enough unread pages to keep me occupied, I fear my posts are becoming repetitious. It has been ten years and millions of words and I wonder if I have anything left to say.

Is the end in sight?

I suspect so, but not quite yet.

I'm reading (on my wife's Kindle) Joan Breton Connelly's The Parthenon Enigma, a fresh interpretation of Athenian culture as realized in that most iconic of structures, and I shall be having much to say about it. The unfortunate title of the book suggests something like The Da Vinci Code, but this is a scholarly tome by an archaeologist and professor of classics at New York University. It bears more than mere notice.

Connelly begins with the physical setting, and so let's get to that first.

When I was an early teen I visited the full-scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It sits in a rather dull, flat park and, although impressive, would hardly move one to tears. It wasn't until late middle age that I experienced the original, in its breath-taking site atop the Acropolis. The approach up that celestial ramp, the heavenly experience of the temple floating above the city, the rock of the Acropolis itself, an altar seemingly prepared by the gods as a place for votive worship!

A haunting geography of airy bluffs, grottos, springs, groves. A place that seems to call forth –- what? The gods? Rationalism? Mysticism? Science? Theocracy? Democracy? Something dramatic (literally and figuratively) happened here, but what? And why? These are questions Connelly addresses.

I saw the Parthenon first from the rooftop terrace of my hotel, a mile away across the city. I thought: Geography is destiny.