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Of Eggs and Zeros
May 30, , 2010
Editor’s note: Anyone who has read Michael’s “The Abominable Snowman” knows that he can distort matters into a bit of ridicule. The following piece seems at first glance somewhat far-fetched, but is in fact a discourse on our great humanist inheritance and the cold-hearted tyranny of Mammon pitted against it. Whereby he comes to the conclusion that the latter might have overstretched itself and so precipitated its own demise. A hope that most of us will happily endorse, I'm sure.
The Humps and Palefeet, a gruff and unkempt sideline of the Germanic Teutons who initiated Rome’s decline by rubbing out Quinctilius Varus and his legions in the Teutoburg Forest, dwelt before and during the Common Era some ten leagues downriver from present day Hamelin. Of a parochial temperament, did they espouse an accordingly meagre pantheon composed of only one deity, the Universal black Hen, who had laid one Egg only, our Globe. Though not exactly round as in fact it nearly is, was this an observation already far more accurate than the one held by numerous Popes for many centuries afterwards. Yet it had one serious flaw, namely the assumption that the Egg must have a yolk which they deemed to be pure gold. This was the reason why they dug extensive tunnels and ducts into the Wiehen mountains, though luckily never deep enough to burn their fingers. But they didn’t find anything either, a clear lesson for those of their dumb descendants who believe, as the proverb goes, that gold is the yolk of the Egg.
Similar conjectures were entertained by the Pygmies of
the Upper Congo basin, with the difference that here, due to a slightly
altered visual angle, the Worldlayer was an ostrich.
Gold apart, is it a historically accepted surmise that
our forbears, blessed with less information but more fantasy, wisdom and
poesy, were fairly awed by the Egg’s mystery. How was it possible, they
asked themselves astonished, that out of a chalky wafer-thin receptacle and
its sticky content real life could irresistibly break forth? Did God regale
the humble observer here with a clear and overwhelming proof of His
omnipotent presence? Could it be, what an outrageous thought, that He
Himself hid as an eternal spark within the thin shell? Were God and Egg of
the same Essence?
Since indeed they are, does it surprise little if some
of antiquity’s most important personages have been born on the maternal side
out of an Egg. Take the Tien, an unspecific arch-bird who dropped her
Egg on the virginal ocean and from which hatched the first human being, a
Chinese. Able to breed long before anybody else, is this of course the
explanation why his offspring swarms across our overcrowded planet in such a
Brahma, an Indian
Deity, was born from a golden Egg and afterwards created the world. A
genesis seriously challenged by some Darwinian eggheads who, on the basis of
evolutionary mechanics, insist that it should have been the other way round.
Ra, a falcon-headed God of the Egyptians who sailed the
Sun Disc every day in his ship of papyrus from horizon to horizon,
originated out of an Egg. An amazingly beautiful precept, as everybody
agrees, though hotly contested by this cerebral cockroach Christopher
Hitchens and his band of mental midgets, on the grounds that since there
isn’t a God there can’t be an Egg.
The Dioscuri Castor and Pollux, roving twins of Hellenic provenance with a predilection to abduct voluptuous and extremely naked damsels as seen in Ruben's marvellous canvas, are a scientifically interesting example of the Egg birth, because their mother was the calm and beautiful Leda. Seduced by Zeus himself in the disguise of a swan, must she have been fairly overwhelmed not so much by his song but his majestic grace. Since he commanded, genetically speaking, the best references possible, contained the egg laid by her not only one yolk but two. The resulting twins, by the way, stand symbolically for an intrinsic psychological phenomenon, namely the lifelong battle of our Inner Angel with our Inner Devil. Both can be found, expressively sculptured, on the façade of Christendom's most artistic font of wisdom, Notre Dame de Paris. Or, by extension, as Alice's Tweedledee and Tweedledum, comrades-in-arms of Humpty-Dumpty the Eggman and His Most Illustrious Excellency the White Knight, Grandmaster of past and present Knights Templars. The same perception is expressed in the Far-Eastern Yin and Yang, a more cloudy system of thought that pales somewhat by comparison but is much en vogue with certain soulful minds, usually longhaired and holding a joint in both hands, who have bravely declared Christ's message as obsolete.
The old Greeks saw the heavenly dome as the inside of
an eggshell and themselves, a most perplexing observation, as unborn or
unfinished within. Whereby the shell consisted of seven layers or spheres
which needed to be cracked one after the other in order to attain
Enlightenment and Eternal Life. To describe exactly of what mental leapfrog
each layer consists would bust the scope of this little discourse, provided
it could be expressed in any case.
Our Christian custom to hide painted Eggs for our children on Easter Sunday is based on an old lore where the resurrection of our gentle Saviour, His opening of the sarcophagus, is compared to the birth of a chicken. Or vice versa. The search as such is of course inspired by the ancient Science of Alchemy, mankind's most sublime discipline, and its contention that the Sacred Egg, once found, will eventually turn into the Stone of the Wise.
In the world of the Fine Arts the Egg has been used in manifold variations, though always with the same philosophical meaning. William Blake's (1757 – 1827) little Angel has just done what we all dream of, namely breaking out of its confinement and gazing with a wondrous expression at the World as if it sees her for the first time in all her splendour.
In Hieronymus Bosch's (1450 – 1516) triptych 'The Garden of Earthly Delight' can it be found in the absolute centre of this fantastic and incredibly complex extravagance.
A particularly fine example of using the Egg as an artistic metaphor is 'The Oberried Altar' by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497 – 1543). There it shines by night as a pale moon and blazes during the day as a bright sun from the sky, and the sensitive beholder may know, just as the poor shepherds or the wise Magi, which Sovereign, what kind of Idea it serves as a radiant crown.
Piero della Francesca (1420 - 1492) has it floating, in one of the most grandiose representations ever painted, above the Virgin and Her Child. The fact that it is suspended on a thin thread from a large seashell, namely the one in which Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love, was born, elevates the theme to a metaphor of far-flung significance. Because here merge Hellenic myth with Christian canon into a
resplendent Alchemist doctrine, meaning in fact that
the highest possible wisdom attainable within a human lifespan must
necessarily be the Wisdom of Love.
These are just a few interesting observations as to the use and essence of that divine invention called Egg. They might help you to recall the power of expression, awareness of beauty, depth of thought and feeling which our incomparable Indo-European culture has accumulated in its long and glorious history.
The Zero, a human invention, has the form of an Egg and
might be easily confused with the latter if seen from a one-dimensional
plane only. But that’s about it. Because if perceived realistically, an Egg
contains so very obviously the divine spark of life in all its radiance,
beauty and splendour, whereas the Zero stands for an icy, implacable and
nocturnal emptiness, be it on paper, of the mind or the heart. Which is the
reason why someone with a bagful of Zeros can come along and scoff at you
and the Egg you hold in your hand, and tell you that in case he feels like
it, he can buy all the Eggs in the world. Wherewith he admits to worship
Zeros only, and reveals accordingly his terrible deficiency, namely that he
hasn’t the faintest idea what Eggs are all about.
Let us take a look at the Zero's history. It was dreamt
up by the same mental acrobat who invented Chess, that noble game. Which I
have tried, long ago, against a rather dim boy half my age who managed to
beat me repeatedly, and which I deem in consequence as unsavoury if not
repulsive. As to its inventor, he turned up one day at the fabled court of
Golconda in faraway Aryanistan where his invention caused a small sensation
among the emperor and his entourage. Persuaded to buy it, the wily
monarch wanted to know its price. Very little, answered the mental
acrobat who had come all the way from Sodom on the sumptuous banks of the
Dead Sea. Just one grain of wheat with an exponent number made up from the
game's sixty four squares. The emperor, who understood as much about
exponent numbers as any decent Christian, namely near to nothing, added
everything up and arrived at sixty five, which he found so moderate a demand
that he put a few sacks on top out of sheer generosity. But a decent
mathematician will tell us of course that the quantity of grains owed to the
acrobat were truly astronomical. Knowing this, the latter had long since
invented the Zero and thus could count each grain properly, and in due
course arrived at the final bill which added up to a debt as gargantuan as
that of the United States right now.
A fait accompli that made the emperor’s bursar wring
his hands in despair, but could not be reneged on because those were times
when Christian ethics and tolerance stood large on the agenda and honour had
still a meaning. Another reason, it must be admitted, was of course the fact
that the emperor and his advisers did at first not fully understand where
they had themselves landed in.
The acrobat meanwhile invited his uncle and granduncle
from Gomorrah, and all three set up an off-shore company that managed the
newly won riches. By adding plenty of empty Zeros and thus tricking people
out of their savings, houses and jobs, did they increase it even more. Soon
they owned most of Golconda, had the upright politicians exchanged for
corrupt ones, started proxy wars and ran a secret army of assassins. This
worked well for a while, but could of course not last. Because, to tell you
the truth and you better agree with me, it would have been against God’s
intent. Or better, His blueprint for mankind’s eventual though distant
salvation. What facilitated the acrobat's final downfall was his arrogance,
his blatant disregard of the general feeling of distrust, disgust, even
hate, which his evil antics had brought about. Thus one day the General of
the Imperial Guard had a tête-a-tête with the Chief Astrologer during
which they discussed an interesting question, namely if one must stick to
one's honour if honour isn't part of the other party's vocabulary. After
some serious debate they arrived at a morally sound conclusion, to the
effect that they advised the emperor to pull himself together and do his
job. Which led to a thorough criminal investigation, the acrobat’s
indictment, the confiscation of his assets and his expulsion to Sodom and
that of his associates to Gomorrah respectively.
Thereafter matters got back to normal, and henceforth a
cabbage changed hands again for three apples, twenty loafs of bread were
sufficient to buy a pair of sandals, and a future spouse, depending on her
warmth and skills, could be had for an adequate number of horses and
As to the Zero, it was decided that a few might be a
decent cushion to sleep on. But if they were ever again to multiply into
astronomical dimensions at the hands of clever acrobats, the latter would be
strung up from the highest palm trees the empire had to offer. Which is the
reason why usury was regarded from then on and for many centuries afterwards
as a deadly sin. A credo that begins to gain ground again in present days,
particularly after it becomes more and more clear to what extent our
latter-day money acrobats have corrupted and destroyed the moral and
financial fibre of entire countries and their societies.
Thus we may today not witness the final consolidation of the Zero as a Global Tyrant, but its descent into the gutter where it in fact belongs.
Michael Colhaze (email him) is a pen name.