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Saturday, September 21, 2013

How Tall Should I Be?



The picture above is titled, "Figures Discoursing Among Roman Ruins". It was painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini in the 1730s. According to scholars, there are two features common to Roman ruins in general. They are all in bad need of repair and their owners have trouble keeping them insured. But we will address a scholarly question instead: What with insurers being so particular and Spackle being hard to come by before it was invented in the 1940s, why build ruins in the first place?

The answer is in a detail of Panini's painting.


 Just in front and to the right of a statue meant to demonstrate the evils of slouching --it makes one's arms fall off-- is a stone lion. On its base, we see the words, "O, CLAUDI !"  Claudi translates from Latin into "lame" or "shut up" and, like many Latin words of multiple meanings, was often used by Romans who didn't much care if anybody knew what they were talking about. This inscription strongly suggests the ruin was used by a lesser-known religious sect called The Church Of Oh Shut up. This furnishes a valuable clue about what the "Figures" are "Discoursing" in Panini's painting.
For this purpose, I have provided a personal translation of the church's traditional litany:

"Leader (central figure): Yea, though I am tallest among you, maybe five-eleven, I cannot poke my head out the head-holes in the ceiling. Are we condemned to worship the heavens through some holes in the roof?

Congregation: Oh shut up!

Leader: No, you shut up! And some of you are slouching! You're afraid of being tallest. Look at my arms, which I hold out gracefully like a dancer. That's why your arms'll fall off. What think you of my reasoning?

Congregation: Oh lame!

Leader: Look thou, beloved congregants! Guy over there's actually kneeling, kneeling AND slouching. What's the deal --you think the tallest among us must fix the roof? You think I won't? You think (hold my beer)...Ok, someday, when we invent ladders and they're cheap enough for everybody, I'll make you guys climb up there and nail new stone on the uh...how doth the faithful nail stone anyway?
 
Congregation: Oh shut up!"

I suppose the impetus for this essay comes from the rain, glorious and long-awaited rain, we've enjoyed in this valley today. I've mainly stayed in but often take outdoor frolic-breaks. Hope everybody is enjoying a similarly happy end-day of summer.
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23 comments:

  1. I always enjoy reading your absurd posers of opposites, the serious burlesqued as in this case. The sudden crux of seasons and rain--as well as that recent huge full moon--must all have been doing their work on you! The origins of 'looney' are well known. Bravo on making me chuckle, old friend!

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  2. Willie-- Thanks! I love you too.

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  3. Hi Geo.,

    Oh you made me genuinely 'laugh out loud' this time!
    Why build ruins in the first place?

    I will be giving this some serious thought...

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    1. Hi Michelle-- I just read how to do embedded threaded comments and you're my first try. Hope it works. Thanks for reading my essay and having serious thoughts. I had one once, half-hour ago, and now I'm attempting threaded comments. Not sure I could do it very long at a time. Going to hit "Publish" now, yikes!

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  4. Why build ruins in the first place? So you could write about them. And painters could paint them. And ghosts could haunt them. Ruins are important, and sadly underrated.

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    1. E.C.-- It worked! And yes, what is imagination and romance without graceful decay? At my age, I should surely know!

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  5. I always notice the little things and I'm still laughing at (hold my beer).

    I've been a sloucher most of my life but I still have both my arms - - which come in handy for holding beer, biting my fingernails, and (occasionally) playing Beethoven.

    You're a constant delight, Geo. - which is more than I can say for myself.

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    1. Then I'll say it for yourself for you, Jon. You're a delight.

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  6. Looks more to me like a contractor giving his potential clients the bad news about the cost of renovations. Wouldn't Mike Holmes like to have a go at that place? I can just hear him now, "Take it all down." lol.
    I find as I get older I've been slouching a bit more....best put a check on that if I want to keep my arms.

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    1. I may have exaggerated that part of the translated litany. Don't worry about your arms, but check them by hugging people now and then.

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  7. My favorite bit was (hold my beer.)

    Shall have an analysis of your script posted in short order, good sir.

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    1. Suze, I'm still wondering why I wrote "Ignatz", but I think the solution is forthcoming. Please thank your sister for the handwriting analysis!

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  8. My family must have Old World roots, because the life guidelines I heard most often were, "Shut up!" "Stand up straight!" and "Stop slouching!"

    In a related vein, my brother is now the height I used to be (5'10") and I am now my mother's height (5'7"). We are farther from heaven the older we get!

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    1. Which begs the question, Austan: who made the head-holes in the first place?

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  9. Love your sense of humor!
    I needed a good laugh 'right about now'

    Glad you got some rain and glad that the rains of Colorado have stopped.

    Take care, Geo.

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    1. Margie, my sense of humor loves you right back! And I hope you got through that awful Colorado rain ok.

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  10. I'm not sure if I should say, "Well Done, You" or "Shut up". Either way, this is brilliant and I love it.

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    1. C.Consigliere-- I respond well to both comments but cannot seem to consistently live up to either.

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  11. I guess I was just ahead of my time when, in my youth, I told my Lutheran pastor—a decidedly stupid fellow—to "oh, just shut up!"

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    1. Geezer-- I believe that was pretty much what Martin Luther told the Pope, so I'm sure you pastor considered it a good point --might've nailed it on the church door.

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