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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Life and Death

Today was a day of sharp contrasts but where in hindsight I thought there was much in common too. The sun was shining first thing and I wandered around the garden taking more pictures. By 10am  the sun had disappeared behind the clouds and on an impulse I decided to drive to the Park and Ride and hop on the bus to Edinburgh to see an exhibition of stitched textiles in the Central Library by a group called Penelope's Sisters. It gave me the opportunity to visit the Fine Art Section of the Library hidden away on an upper floor which was a delight in itself. I looked at not just the stitching but also the students with their noses in books while making notes. They looked very familiar as looking back in time that is exactly what I used to do. The show is still on till 21st June if you are interested, and you can visit the library at any time. I ended up making a list of books that caught my eye ! Needless to say there was no photography inside the library.
I was very close to Greyfriars Kirk and Graveyard and it proved too tempting so I made my way there narrowly avoiding being sidetracked by Greyfriars Art Supply shop!
The graveyard is huge and quite a sinister place. I don't always feel quite right there on my own but today the peace of the graves was disturbed by the voices of Japanese tourists who were being given a tour of the place. Greyfriars is now a recognized Edinburgh attraction as other graveyards all over the world have become. And it's no wonder. This is a graveyard where even in death people tried to keep up with the Joneses in the splendour and magnificence of their grave monuments. They are all macabre and designed to literally  put the fear of God into the viewer.
It struck me then that flowers  live and die much better than humans. They simply come to be, put on their very best show and be as beautiful as possible and then gently sink into nothingness. We humans seem to need a wealth of pomp and circumstance at our ending even though we generally have produced far less beauty and given far less pleasure than those humble flowers.
It was an unsettling thought and I felt even more disorientated when I saw this angel and for one brief moment imagined she was holding a mobile phone, till common sense prevailed and I returned to reality.
I rejoice in the symbolism found on the graves. Calling them graves is a bit of an understatement as some of them are edifices and mausoleums.
What is it with us mortals that we need to put the images of a couple (CF and IB, standing for George Foulis, laird of Ravilstoun d. 1633, and his wife Jane Bannatyne) on a gravestone, holding hands under the watchful eye of death (accompanied by the motto Till Death Us Do Part) with the grim reaper also in attendance.
It demonstrates how fear was used by religion (all religions!) to gain the upper hand. I'm not sorry that such times are now well and truly on the wane nor do I regret they have left behind great beauty in their wake but I'm happy that most of humanity (sadly not all) has moved on. In that respect alone this graveyard is a salutary warning. Hopefully we will never again return to such days. It also struck me forcibly how the message of religions about salvation and goodness was mostly lost in among the warnings of the consequences if you didn't conform. .
I'm fairly sure that even in the past there were many human beings who strongly questioned religion. After all our human minds are much now as they were then with the only difference that we have more factual knowledge to draw on, so there must have been people who questioned the religious teachings.  But it was very dangerous in those days to voice any alternative ideas and it could be deadly. We have to thank the courage of those few who stood up to indoctrination and who eventually produced the society we now live in where our thoughts and beliefs are our own business. Sadly that is not the case all over the world yet, but it's my belief (a word I'm not keen on!) that eventually humans will always end up throwing off the shackles of repression.
Graveyards make me think more deeply about life which is one of the reasons I like to visit them. They are contemplative places while at the same time providing nourishment to the eye and thus to the soul. Greyfriars is one of the most unsettling graveyards and even the tours can't manage to chase away the lingering remains of those who lived before us.  Part of the graveyard was used as a prison for the Covenanters but that's a story for another day.
For my blip today I wanted to merge life and death and I did that by using Photoshop Elements to combine two of the photographs I took on this day.

One features a detail of one of the grave monuments, erected in memory of Thomas Bannantyne who died in 1625, and seen above. It has the Latin inscription Quis Evadet (Who will be spared?) on one side and Tempus edax rerum (time, the devourer of all things) on the other.  It seems to  show how the Word of God (why do I still use Capitals for this?) conquers Death  (in the thought processes of the time). The angel looks quite perky to me!  I combined it with a picture of the lupins in our garden.  To me the message of the latter is much more clear: live a beautiful life and depart with grace.

2 comments:

Jewels said...

Wow Frieda - I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and pausing to see the details in each of your photos...wonderful.

Lenna Young Andrews said...

wonderful and most interesting post! Loved reading your ideas and adore what you did for your blip!

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