Sunday, May 29, 2011

That Which is Sacred Yields Not Riches

Getting inside Ilan Averbuch's "The Bell, The Flower, and The Wash" in Scottsdale

Ilan Averbuch's "The Bell, The Flower, and The Wash"

Standing behind the fence contemplating this new public art in Scottsdale (click link above, lots of good background and info), feeling a brief twinge for not being able to touch it yet, or sit beneath it (or inside it? SPA has a photo of that, we'll have to see if that is permitted when the fences come down, probably not though, somehow sitting inside big rusty funnel-flowers just feels beyond the realm of what would be permitted, a perk reserved only for SPA program managers (which is OK by me, I do not begrudge program managers their first right to sit in public art funnel-flowers, it's just now that I know one can sit in it, I want to, too, for the experience, the sights, the sounds, the feel, the perspective, to get to know it, to be like a bee, I suppose, the prima pollinator)), after I thought of funnels, and mathematical shapes like a hyperboloid or a catenoid (I love those Wolfram Mathworld pages because you can click on the shapes and rotate them around), I thought of a Sacred Datura flower. My friend had cut some from the alley behind her house yesterday, and had them in a slender vase on her table. I did not think to take a photo of hers, but here's an example:

Hindu Datura, Indian Apple, Jimson Weed, Sacred Datura, Thorn Apple (Datura inoxia)

I wasn't sure what "datura" meant, standing there behind the fence, so I was left to contemplate what it meant to me: a graceful, trumpet-shaped white flower which blooms at night, very toxic, and used by some as a hallucinogen. This much I know. Oh, and also, that snipping some blossoms, and putting them into a vase on a dimly lit dining room table seems to induce them to stay open rather than close up by sunrise.

After processing the word "datura," I moved on to "sacred". And, it sort of stumped me. I guess I could formulate what it is supposed to mean, but I started to think about how the word is actually used, leading me to decide that I don't know what meaning can be derived from the common usages of "sacred". 

Reverse view, seen from the street or neighborhood: buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I can say

In usage, most of the time, when someone says a thing or a place is sacred, I translate that in my mind to "I want that place or thing to be mine," or, "I claim property rights to exploit that place or thing for monetary gain," or "I want to convince people this is sacred so they will pay for the privilege of visiting it," or variations of those. Relics to rip off pilgrims who have journeyed far. Magic to deceive and impoverish the gullible and the desperate and the feeble-minded. Houses of gambling or chance built on sacred mountains to separate the lucky from their shekles. Greed is not godly, I could not help but think, and the profane will never elevate us above our most base characteristics. Ever. That which is sacred yields not riches.

Under construction, on 15 May

Wacker: also taken on 15 May

Riding the fixie around on the TCT (my new abbreviation for the Tri-city Tour, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe), I was asking myself, "so what is sacred?" a fair question given the above bold, contentious reasoning. While thinking about that, seeing if the focused firing of neurons could put together some coherent thoughts to answer the question, a bee flew inside my glasses, landed, and calmly roosted right in the center of the view from my right eye. Whoa. I tried to stay calm, but a big fuzzy/blurry bee inside my glasses caused me some concern. How does that even happen? What was its plan exactly? What was its next step? I pictured myself spending Memorial Day as one of those guys with a badly swollen eye. I pulled over, rolled to a stop, and removed the glasses as smoothly or calmly as possible.

The bee did not fly away immediately. It was smaller than it looked when it was right in front of my eye, but it was a bee. I regarded him, now calmer, and actually asked it, right there, by the side of the road: "Bee, what is sacred?"

Bee did not tell me his thoughts on the subject--I am no datura-eater. Neither did he fly right away, though. In fact, the bee stayed until I blew him off the lens with my breath. Did he regard me, asking, what is this guy's plan exactly? What is his next step? Can we get inside a bee's tiny head? Well, see, that's why I want to sit inside the rusty funnel-flower by Fire Station #1 in Scottsdale: to think like a bee, to wonder about what is sacred. Free of charge, free of fear, free of everything: just free. Get up. Go ride.



  1. Actually, JRA, worker bees are all infertile females.

    Ironic, isn't it? The successful sex life of most flowering plants is dependent on the actions of an animal with NO sex life!

    There's gotta be a deeper meaning there, don't you think?

  2. I also think the reproductive cycles of the pepsis wasp, and the fig wasp, are very interesting. Oh, and whiptail lizards that reproduce through parthenogenesis.

  3. Oh yeah, and worker bees don't mate, but sometimes do lay eggs, which produce drones.


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