Hm, Latin makes an appearance yet again… why is it that the interesting words almost always come from Latin? This one hasn’t even been changed much! It means turned to face something, opposite. And today, from two different areas influenced by religion (Christianity in this case), the duality it implies demands a bit of analysis.
The first area that brought duality on my mind is the environment. I remember being a very young student, taking the environment for granted but starting to realize the extent to which humans change it. I had heard about an organization that protected animals from excessive hunting and I happened to talk to a devout Christian about it. He disagreed with that organization because he thought they interfered with his fundamental religious right to do what he pleased with the environment, as said in his Holy Book, right at the beginning (Genesis). It had not occurred to me at that time that people considered themselves lords and rulers of the Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up around and among people, in the world of people. I was aware from books and TV of animals and plants that exceeded human abilities by magnitudes. I suppose I just saw us as very different, sharing the same whole world but with humans interested only in the domesticated species, while leaving the others alone. I know, naïve, huh? I hadn’t thought that there might not be enough space for everybody – there are no trees in a wheat field, are there? And once we domesticated sheep, well, wolves really had to go, right?
The second area that brought duality on my mind is art. I love reading about art, especially figurative art (where I don’t have to wonder what the artist meant by it). Just as an aside, one of my friends brought home to me how Eurocentric my education really is (well, with good reason!). I remember talking to her about European history and I realized that, not being European herself, she had an idea about what I was talking about, but not necessarily the time and the significance of the time for the history, the art and even the religion. Ultimately though, being a devout Christian herself, I was able to use the religious timeframe to put it in context for her. Truly, I know much less about her timeframe than she knows about mine, and that is a sobering thought!
But back to art, this book I was reading covered very thoroughly the period on time in Europe (and neighbourhood) after Christianity became a lawful religion, therefore it could begin to truly influence art. The intensity of feeling around this new religion was quickly evident in artistic expression, even though this remained essentially figurative. Even though it was not doctrine, the conflict between Christians and non-Christians started to be assimilated to the perceived conflict between body and spirit, between Nature and Heavens. Nature and body and non-Christian (believing maybe that one god controls thunder and another the sun) needed to be subdued, conquered, put in their places. In art, it means that perspective all but disappeared, important people took front stage with stiff bodies and huge, intense, disembodied eyes and nature only took the symbolic place that showed the spirit’s purification.
Seventeen centuries later some are still struggling with this duality, still try to impose a hierarchy with people at the top, even evolutionists 🙂 We call it progress.
Maybe we need to look beyond?