quarta-feira, junho 28, 2006

Climbing down Pisgah

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Click to Enlarge / Click para AumentarPisgah, Mount Nebo, Ras Siyagha, Mukhayyet/Mukhayyat: In Jordan at the north-eastern end of the Dead Sea; 800 metres/2,600 feet. Of course there are lots of other ones in America; North Carolina, Tennessee, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Utah ... There are some good photographs of the original at Franciscan friars of the Holy Land and Malta.

From the Fifth Book of Moses, Deuteronomy in Chapter 3:

Get thee up into the top of Pisgah,  and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward,  and behold it with thine eyes:  for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.  But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him:  for he shall go over before this people,  and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.

and in Chapter 34:

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho.  And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.  And the Lord said unto him,  This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed:  I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.  So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

Click to Enlarge / Click para AumentarOur reach exceeds our grasp as they say, even for Moses.

D.H. Lawrence wrote an essay in 1924, 'Climbing down Pisgah', nowhere available on-line, more on this later ...

Click to Enlarge / Click para AumentarClick to Enlarge / Click para AumentarClick to Enlarge / Click para AumentarAnother of the 5th century mosaics from Church of Saint George; the spiral motif is often seen on the columns of mosques, sometimes turning to the left, sometimes right, sometimes both, but this is the first time I have seen it on a cross.

Click to Enlarge / Click para AumentarI can't remember anymore exactly what Lawrence is on about in this essay - I read it and we discussed it in an english lecture back in the 60s. There is an ambivalence in Moses' state of mind, no doubt; after a spectacular life in the presence, the Shekinah (aka Shekinah, Shechinah, Shekina, Shechina, Schechinah; dragging in the feminine side, Shakti, the Tabernacle), he will see the Promised Land only from this distance.

In this engraving (cribbed from Gutenberg) he appears reconciled, with an air of equanimity and resignation - yet still, one hand almost makes a fist, the other open in a gesture I don't quite understand.

My thought is simple - maybe Moses is a model for the graceful acceptance of age and death. I have ordered a copy of Lawrence's essay, originally published in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine (* nope, sorry about that, never in that book at all) and re-printed in Selected Critical Writings. When it gets here maybe I will have more to say.

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