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[Orgmode] Re: OT Re: unicorn

From: Ross A. Laird
Subject: [Orgmode] Re: OT Re: unicorn
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2009 10:37:38 -0800
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.90 (gnu/linux)

Carsten Dominik <address@hidden> writes:

> Hi Ross,
> great post, thank you very much!
> You have made me curious:  What argumentation is used to estimate
> the age of Myth at 70000 years.  I can't be the fossile record,
> I guess :-)  So I am wondering how something like this is figured out.
> If you feel like putting background stuff about unicorns into the
> FAQ, be my guest.
> - Carsten

Hi Carsten;

Thanks for the feedback -- and actually, I was wondering if someone
might ask about the 70,000 years. Until recently, the accepted date for
the appearance of human culture -- as evidenced by complex tools and
apparent symbolic thinking -- was somewhere around thirty or forty
thousand years ago (the so-called Willendorf Venus figures, for
example). But this threshold has now doubled back -- to at least seventy
thousand before the present. Archaeologists working at the Blombos cave
in South Africa have found, among other surprises, finely worked weapons
decorated with symbolic engravings -- within a strata older than seventy
thousand years.

So, it seems that humans were thinking in terms of symbols at least
70,000 years ago. And symbols always derive from myths (this is the most
basic rule of myth: symbols indicate myths). So, myths are at least
70,000 years old. By the way, this is not the same as the emergence of
individuality, which is a related but not identical development.
Individuality seems to have taken quite a bit longer: it seems to first
appear with the ancient Egyptians around 3000 BCE. A statue of the
pharaoh Khafre (the owner of the second-largest pyramid at Giza) is the
world's oldest surviving individualized work of art. This statue is now
in room 42 of the Cairo Museum. So indeed, the answer to life, the
universe, and everything is 42! (I devoted quite a bit of time to Khafre
in my book on myth; he was a very interesting character who may be the
face on the sphinx; and the sphinx, of course, is of the same
mythological family as the unicorn).



> On Feb 27, 2009, at 7:33 PM, Ross A. Laird wrote:
>> Carsten Dominik <address@hidden> writes:
>>> On Feb 27, 2009, at 12:12 PM, Bastien wrote:
>>>> Carsten Dominik <address@hidden> writes:
>>>>> I guess it is something like an official logo, yes (even though
>>>>> some people don't like it, I have seen it being called
>>>>> "demasculinating"
>>>>> ...)
>>>> Hehe...  Since I picked up this "animal", I entirely assume any
>>>> queer
>>>> connotation it may have.  The IT world is already "masculine"
>>>> enough!
>>>> Bastien
>>> I like it, and I really do like the list of reasons
>>> we have (in hindsight) for choosing it...
>> I teach several courses in mythology at my university (it's my area of
>> concentration), and I feel inclined to say that the unicorn, as a
>> mythological animal, does not have any type of queer of emasculating
>> connotation in myth. In fact, it is sometimes quite a masculine animal
>> that is related to the stag in the grail quest (the stag stabs, with
>> his
>> antler, the inner thigh of the grail knight, thus showing the stag's
>> greater masculinity). These animals are symbols of divinity,
>> essentially, of the fusion of purity and power. They don't really
>> have a
>> sexual connotation other than the idea of generative power (like the
>> bull). Queer is a new idea in myth; it's about fifty years old. Myth
>> itself, on the other hand, is about 70,000 years old. So, the
>> application of queer terminology to mythological items such as
>> unicorns
>> is a modern practice which has no real impact on ancient myths and
>> myth
>> items such as the unicorn. In a thousand years we will still have
>> myths
>> of the unicorn, but the idea of queer will probably have evolved into
>> something else (it already is evolving into something else...).
>> As to the question of whether or not unicorns still exist (see org
>> FAQ),
>> this falls within the same domain as the question of whether Atlantis
>> exists. The answer (as much as there can be one) is that they do
>> exist,
>> as mythological items that Carl Jung called "archetypal;" they are
>> essential to, and foundational of, human nature. They will always be a
>> part of human culture, and exist timelessly in that sense whether or
>> not
>> they exist in fact.
>> I can hardly ever contribute anything useful to this list. Today is an
>> exception.
>> Cheers.
>> Ross
>> --
>> Ross A. Laird, PhD
>> www.rosslaird.info
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Ross A. Laird, PhD

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