It’s too bad that Mexico City is off limits for most people due to excessive crime and corruption – not to mention its reputation as one of the most polluted cities in the world. This much-maligned megatropolis is a cultural treasure with one of the best anthropology museums imaginable on planet earth.
When I visited last summer, I was enthralled and somewhat overwhelmed by the impressive exhibits at the Museo de Antropologia, such as the giant stone heads of the Olmec civilization and the Mayan and Aztec artifacts, including the original Aztec Stone of the Sun.
However, what really got my attention were the carved quotations lining the periphery of the somewhat starkly designed enclosed interior patio. The collection of quotes are from ancient civilizations, as well as from more recent ones and modern day thought leaders, representing every corner of the globe.
Diverse in origin, they all asked the same questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a creator?
Here’s one example from the Canto de Heuextingo:
“Is this the only way for me to go? Like the flowers that perish? Will nothing remain of my name? Nothing of my fame here on earth?”
Our guide led us around the patio and read each citation aloud. The haunting laments from eons past echo still today man’s search for meaning through the ages – a quest that has no known beginning.
The focus of this blog is finding meaning through art, yet art as a rule has a small “a” not a capital “A.” Art should never be limited to any one outlet or appetite, such as drawings or carvings. Art is in every human endeavor, from creations that please the eye to those that serve a purpose. Art is in our literature, our philosophies, and in our buildings. Each form of art compliments the others, and all provide the framework for a continuous timeline that scours meaning and purpose for each successive generation.
The stories from the Bible, as well as from Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Virgil, Seneca, Dante, among many others from the ancient Greek and Roman, and Middle Ages, show up in the extraordinary paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance. Architecture leapt forward with flying buttresses, rose windows and gothic spires after the fall of the Roman Empire, then circled back around eventually to recapture the grandeur of the mighty Greco-Roman architecture. Most of our federal buildings in the Washington, D.C. are Romanesque in design.
The rise and fall of great civilizations, wars between nations and civil wars that crush the spirit of nations or propel them forward, all sway with the words from philosophers both great and ruinous. Religion also has a say in all of this…or is at the apex of it…or is the result of it.
Man’s search for meaning has no known beginning, and it is still on his mind today.