Friday, May 4, 2012

CHANCE FAVORS THE PREPARED MIND

This has turned out to be one of my favorite sayings.  One may ask: to whom is it attributed? The first time I saw this phrase it was attributed to Ansel Adams; since then, I’ve seen other names such as Louis Pasteur.  What does it mean?  Here is my experience:  While working on my BFA degree, I used a dragonfly as a motif.  I’ve always been fascinated by them. I occasionally saw them in my  yard. Some time ago while vacationing in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and staying in a cabin on stilts, I pointed out a humongous dragonfly hovering at cabin level.  Out of the blue, a bird suddenly flew by and snatched it in one fell swoop.  We all stood motionless, in disbelief of what had been witnessed.

Copyright of the author of this blog post
Back to school.  Using a dragonfly motif required me to study them with more awareness―the once dreaded research.  What I learned about dragonflies was quite fascinating.  Since then, I see dragonflies in one form or another everywhere!  I wondered why I hadn’t noticed before. Was it always a popular motif?  Then it occurred to me that my mind had been prepared from my research to observe differently.  When I graduated from college, my dear friend Mary L. presented me with bookends that say “Chance favors the prepared mind.”  They are a cherished possession.  As an artist, not a scientist, I understand Ansel Adams and his photography more now. He knew what to look for and when because he studied his landscapes.

What has happened while studying art history the past three years is that our minds have been prepared to notice things related to what we previously studied.  All due to our new favorite word: research!  Yesterday, not only did Mary L. share the information she discovered about The Staffordshire Hoard, but shared another National Geographic article from the June 2011 issue titled “The Birth of Religion” by Charles C. Mann.  It seems the question “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” was not lost on these Neolithic ancestors.  Mann says:

Most of the world's great religious centers, past and present, have been destinations for pilgrimages—think of the Vatican, Mecca, Jerusalem, Bodh Gaya (where Buddha was enlightened), or Cahokia (the enormous Native American complex near St. Louis). They are monuments for spiritual travelers, who often came great distances, to gawk at and be stirred by. Göbekli Tepe may be the first of all of them, the beginning of a pattern. What it suggests, at least to the archaeologists working there, is that the human sense of the sacred—and the human love of a good spectacle—may have given rise to civilization itself.”
Image: Göbekli Tepe, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

While studying the Neolithic period 3 years ago, we touched on the subject of the Göbekli Tepe (pron. Guh-behk-lee The-peh) located in Southern Turkey. It gave us a glimpse into the period of time (11,600 years ago) when civilization was beginning to unfold:  People working together instead of independently. It was a lifestyle evolving. Göbekli Tepe may be the most significant site as it was originally built of cleanly carved limestone, the tallest are 18 feet high and weigh approximately 16 tons. (Yikes!) It took a lot of human brainpower to construct this detailed architectural and engineered structure. Keeping in mind that this is not the only Neolithic site but one of many, Mann says:
 “Discovering that Hunter-gatherers had constructed Göbekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife.”

Image: Göbekli Tepe, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Göbekli Tepe, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Kaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist, has been working and studying the surrounding areas at Göbekli Tepe for almost 15 years. To add additional context, he was also part of a group working at Şanlıurfa (pronounced shan-LYOOR-fa) “the place where the Prophet Abraham supposedly was born” which is about 9 miles from Göbekli Tepe. Schmidt says:
"Twenty years ago everyone believed civilization was driven by ecological forces," Schmidt says. "I think what we are learning is that civilization is a product of the human mind."
Image: Göbekli Tepe, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

During Mary L.’s sharing, our thoughts went back to ‘The Birth of TAG-5’ and the Neolithic period we previously studied/researched in-depth.  Chance favored her prepared mind and we were the recipients!  The subject wasn’t cold.  We understood the where, what and how’s of the caves, hunter gatherers; the Fertile Crescent; the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; the beginning of farming, etc., and their art. It was fun to understand what Charles C. Mann was talking about in his article. It filled in some of our ‘blanks.’  If one of us had a question, another would have an answer.  It was a great discussion!  I hope you will read the entire article for yourself.  Oh, and thank you Mary L.

The link to the article is:  http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/06/gobekli-tepe/mann-text  Make sure to view the two minute video showing progression of an architectural scale model of the site.  As usual, the actual magazine article has incredible images.

Mary B.

No comments:

Post a Comment