Thursday, July 4, 2013

It's in the wiring....

There are three things on my "must see" this summer.  The first, the Michelangelo sketches before they left the MFA is done.  Number two: the Dead Sea Scrolls at the the Museum of Science is also now checked off.

Entering is a great quote, "None of the dead can rise up and answer our questions.  But from all they have left behind, their imperishable or slowly dissolving gear we may perhaps hear voices, which are only now able to whisper when everything else has become silent." The quote is from Bjorn Kurten, a Finnish paleontologist (and yes the They Might Be Giants Song got stuck in my head at that point - not helped the quote from Deuteronomy, "Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it...") and sets the tone for the whole exhibit.

The whole exhibit is built around a number of the finds that went with the scrolls themselves, namely the remains of day-to-day house lives that were buried along with the scrolls in the caves and such of the area.

But one thing that hit me: the foot bath.  That's right, a foot bath carved out of stone for ritual foot washing.  I think a lot about traditions mentioned in various bits of historic texts along the way and a big one is foot washing.  Keep in mind that I am Catholic educated and chose to throw my lot in with the Jewish people after lots of study, thought and discussion with all sorts of mentors along the way.  One thing that gets talked about in biblical materials is the idea of washing a guests feet.
foot bath

ritual tub
Now logically I know that it's a part of the world that is dry and dusty and when you're walking to get from here to, well, anywhere, your feet get nasty.  It's a practical thing to wash feet before entering the home to try and keep things clean.  But as I stood there, I wasn't thinking about Biblical admonishments about shaking the dust of an enemy from your feet or Jesus washing the feet of his followers or anything like that.  I was was thinking, "Perhaps my desire for a pedicure is hardwired to ancient times..." and glanced down at my neatly pedicured toes.

Yes, I can be that shallow at times.  On the other hand, the two big display points on the exhibit map were the foot bath on one side of the room and the bathtub on the other.  The bath tub wasn't a take a Saturday night bubble bath kind of thing.  It was from a religious ritual area in the caves where the scrolls and artifacts were found.  So whomever designed the exhibit had a big fixation point on those two pieces, giving them the same sort of map priority as the scrolls themselves.

There are various vessels of various importance peppered through out the exhibit, whether it's a carved jar or a goblet of some type or an ossuary used to collect the bones of the dead and be placed the family tomb.

I loved this basic utilitarian job with just a little bit of a decoration on it.  Think about the various bits and pieces of things we all have because the shape is kind of cool or the pattern is interesting.  So here's this standard storage jar from ancient days with a carving that's just kind of cool.

Hey, maybe we're not that different after all.

The story of the scrolls themselves is interesting in that a Bedouin shepherd found them while chasing a stray goat.  The people who ended up with them knew they had something, but no idea what.  In the end, through a bit of intrigue, all the scrolls ended up back together in Jerusalem.  Another odd thing about the scrolls that struck me, the night the scrolls were identified as something of serious value was the same night the UN voted to establish the state of Israel.

 The section on Masada had "potsherds" - shards of a broken pot with names written on them.  At Masada it is said that ten of the fighters were designated to kill everyone rather than surrender to the Romans.  Once that was done, one name was drawn to kill the other 9 fighters before killing himself.  The potsherds with the names on them give credit to the story.  It makes you ask yourself, what is so beyond the pale in your vision of the life, the universe and everything that would push you to killing yourself rather than accept that fate?

The scrolls are difficult to read.  In part because the scholars reassembling them during the Cold War years may have been scholars, but they weren't archivists.  They used things like scotch tape to hold pieces together, exposed them to air and sunlight as well as tobacco smoke.  I noticed the bit of Isaiah, the most commonly copied book in all the scrolls, on display (with the verse, "In the widow's mouth I was a prayer") was in the shape of the UK.  Now William Blake's "Jerusalem," as performed by Emerson Lake and Palmer, got stuck in my head.

There is a piece of the Western Wall there where you can leave a petition or prayer and it will be placed at the wall in Jerusalem.  There is the new tradition of exiting through the gift shop and then I exited to see the polarized mural.  For years I have looked at pieces of it but then it hit me: I have new, polarized lens sunglasses and put them on to see the whole thing at once for the first time.

It cemented the whole idea of a mind-blowing day at the Museum of Science for me.  In the end, I couldn't go through any other parts of the museum, not even my favorite dinosaur parts because it was too much to process.

Good thing I bought a membership on the way in and can go back again to revisit my dinosaur friends as I do like to imagine owning a pet triceratops named Spike that I could ride around and we would eat broccoli together and be best friends.

But that's for another day.....

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