March 20, 2009

Egyptian Art Exhibit

I recently checked out the Columbus Museum of Art's current exhibition Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum.

I was disappointed although I'm not sure what I was expecting. You go to an Egyptian exhibition and you should expect mummies and artifacts.

Chesterton has a very interesting line in Everlasting Man concerning the Egyptians: "One of the strange marks of the strength of Christianity is that, since it came, no pagan in our civilization has been able to be really human."

He also writes:

Among the more ignorant of the enlightened there was indeed a convention of saying that priests had obstructed progress in all ages; and a politician once told me in a debate that I was resisting modern reforms exactly as some ancient priest probably resisted the discovery of wheels. I pointed out, in reply, that it was far more likely that the ancient priest made the discovery of the wheels. It is overwhelmingly probable that the ancient priest had a great deal to do with the discovery of the art of writing. It is obvious enough in the fact that the very word hieroglyphic is akin to the word hierarchy. The religion of these priests was apparently a more or less tangled polytheism of a type that is more particularly described elsewhere. It passed through a period when it cooperated with the king, another period when it was temporarily destroyed by the king, who happened to be a prince with a private theism of his own, and a third period when it practically destroyed the king and ruled in his stead. But the world has to thank it for many things which it considers common and necessary; and the creators of those common things ought really to have a place among the heroes of humanity. If we were at rest in a real paganism, instead of being restless in a rather irrational reaction from Christianity, we might pay some sort of pagan honor to these nameless makers of mankind. We might have veiled statues of the man who first found fire or the man who first made a boat or the man who first tamed a horse. And if we brought them garlands or sacrifices, there would be more sense in it than in disfiguring our cities with cockney statues of stale politicians and philanthropists. But one of the strange marks of the strength of Christianity is that, since it came, no pagan in our civilization has been able to be really human.


wl said...

All I can say is: he's good.

mrsdarwin said...

We just went up to see the big traveling King Tut exhibit -- slightly anti-climactic because the huge crowds made it difficult to see much. Here's humanization for you: apparently King Tut (dead at 19) had practically perfect teeth, no cavities, but did have a seriously impacted wisdom tooth.

TS said...

All that I'll probably remember from the exhibit is the description of one mummy that offered, "we can tell he had trouble with gallstones."