Monday, May 5, 2008

Crazy, Beautiful

Some things are beautifully crazy...or crazily beautiful. Take this, for instance:

There was a news article I saw last year. It's a pretty amazing story but I kept forgetting to mention it. Luckily I was able to find it again on Google - I think I googled 'temple' and 'underground' and 'Italy'. Oh, and possibly 'crazy guy', but maybe not. Anyway, read the story. Go on, read it. And look at the pictures, which are the amazing part. Then come back here and click Read More.

I said READ THE ARTICLE! I gave you the link, so you don't even have to hunt it on Google like I did. You're so lazy. Fine, here it is again.

Now, aren't you glad you read it? Isn't that amazing?

I mean, from what I can tell - and I did some additional research, which you can find here - from what I can tell, the guy behind these "Temples of Damanhur" is nuttier than a fruitcake. (Which I apologize for saying, Damanhur folks - you've certainly accomplished far more in pursuit of your vision than I have in mine, and crafted beauty like I wouldn't have imagined. Sorry for the condescending-seeming tone here, too.) Fair warning - these folks seem very hippie-like, and believe in reincarnation and humanism and probably the age of aquarius and other stuff incompatible with my own worldview. They also, judging from their website, encourage things I can only applaud - ecological sustainability, volunteerism, community, creativity. It's the creativity of these underground temples which these folks have carved and created (pursuing visions that sound, to my cynical mind, like products of schizophrenia...though many folks in prior centuries believed that the mentally ill were touched by the divine. Hmm.) that really strikes me.

In my very first post on "Whistling in the Dark" I mentioned some of my techno-fears. We often talk about how much we've gained technologically, how much we can do that earlier times (or even folks a decade or two ago) couldn't dream of. That's very true, but do you ever wonder what we've lost? I sometimes do. I mean, we live in a technical wonderland which most of us don't understand at all. We're dependent on the expertise of others to keep our computers working, our cars running, our pipes unclogged. How many of us understand even the basic principles of the internal combustion engine, or computer programming, or plumbing?

How many of us still know how to bake bread?

How many of you that do, could bake bread without pre-packaged ingredients and specialized techno-gadgets in your kitchen?

How many of us could build a fire, minus a lighter or matches?

What I'm getting at is simply this - in a world where technology does most of the work for us, the skills of doing it the long way - the hard way - the human way - get lost.

In the ancient world - even in the medieval and Renaissance worlds - humans slowly, painstakingly, with their own hands and their own spirits, partaking as subcreators in the creative work of God (whether they knew it or not), crafted remarkable things. The Sistine Chapel. The Taj Mahal. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Stonehenge. Westminster Cathedral, and Chartres, and Notre Dame.

I would have thought that the expertise, the sheer creative know-how, to craft such remarkable things, would be dying out. I mean, yeah, Beeson Divinity School chapel (where I went to seminary) is less than 20 years old, and it's gorgeous. (Really, it is.) Doesn't have the same outlandish, fantastical, *creative* elements as the Damanhur folks, though. And Petru, the guy that did the frescos for Beeson, is "one of the last living persons" trained in Eastern European methods chapel/cathedral frescos. I'm sure's there's a more technical and accurate phrasing for that...Anyway, there's not many people left that can do what Petru did, supposedly. "And the glory of the world becomes less than it was..."

Shows what *I* know. Good on you, Damanhur folks. You, and other recent experiences like my visit to this place reassure me that there is still wonder and beauty in the world.

And craziness. :)

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