Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thothing it up

Thoth was, to be brief and inaccurate, the Egyptian god of mind, and writing. His representation in Egyptian art, though, is not dubious: this deity was presented either as a baboon, (sometimes just the head, on a human body) or an ibis. An Ibis for human thought strikes a precise note, does it not? Spindly legs, for perhaps that part of the human which is in the body, but not definitively. Sharp beak for pinpointing the PowerPoint points. How inspiring that those with a claim to inventing the first political state, should have so appropriately  picked a bird to convey the cerebral aspect of human reality. 

But what's with this baboon business? From the very vapors of the first marsh ascent, the people who looked around, and, able to catch their breath, finally, thought, we can do something with this, these people thought of "thought" in terms of a baboon. Does this not seem like a step backwards. Of course they did not have the perspective of modern evolution (considered by some superior to  polytheism as an explanatory structure). But what about baboons, clarified for the Egyptians, the mental dimensions of their world. The baboon might seem a clunky, rough hewn, model of human doing. rather than a way to explain human thought. This animal is hardly the aerial model of something that might survive  death. 

But what if, these ancient analyzers were able to appreciate something obvious that is yet entirely obscured by the flow of modern living. The Buddhists have a story about a man pointing to the moon. The problem he had was that those he wanted to look up, peered at the man's finger. Is it possible that the Egyptians picked the baboon to remind people that internal words, monologues. calculations, were just pointers to something outside us, and that words, were only ever of partial, instrurmental, value. The baboon then, is like the word, pointing to a human being, in reality. The word, as in a baboon, compared to a man, must always be a pointer beyond itself to the physical world. The choice of baboon reflects perhaps, an awareness of the inadequacy, and imperial apsect of verbage, and is meant to remind the thinker, the speaker, where the accent of reality goes. 

If this approach has any value, it means the Egyptians saw clearly an aspect of human reality which eludes the current era.  Ehh. Who knows?

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