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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00

    Monday, November 28, 2005

    Tower of Babel

    Today I am writing my term paper for my Pentateuch class, on the Tower of Babel narrative in Gen 11:1-9. I admit that I chose this passage mostly because I remember my mom reading to me an adaptation of the story as a young child with some of the coolest pictures of the Tower of Babel ever. So, my first update is going to be a gallery of sweet Tower of Babel images in art (and of course, you should click on the pics individually to see them full size):

    This is an interesting one. For one thing - the tower is immense, completely dominating the entire field of view. The color gradient is amazing from the left bright side to the right side in darkness. This effect combined with the clouds interacting with the tower suggest the tower as being a man-made mountain. And actually, with the darkness of the clouds and the sky, at first glance the tower also reminded me of an inverse tornado, because of the oddness of the colors as well as the swirling architecture. Scrumptious.

    I like this painting because it contains the most dramatic portrayal of the height of the tower itself. The rich hues used on the tower contrast it to the bland, almost b/w background city. The pattern of the tower, if you look closely, changes between the 5th and 6th tiers - maybe the builders are re-negotiating things to accommodate it's obscene height?

    This painting was done in 1525 by Bruegel, Pieter the Elder, in Brussels. The painting is actually housed in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna! So I might have seen it when I visited it (I think...). I like both the radial internal structure of the tower which is visible in its non-completed form, as well as the obvious catastrophic cave-ins that the tower has already undergone. I also sympathise with the cowering form of the poor guy in the lower-left corner who is obviously getting a talking-to from the King about the building problems.

    Ah, the best for last. This is my favorite by far. First, Babylonian Ziggurats (to which the biblcal text refers) were very square and had clear, sharp lines, not swirling shapes. The rigidity of the lines in this picture betoken much more of a man-made affair as opposed to a more organic swirling shape. I enjoy the variety of architectural styles present in the tower - showing maybe a variety of competing and conflicted architects. There is a great variety of activities and construction going on at ground-level, so lots to examine there. And the birds are a fabulous touch - there's an especially beautiful one at the upper right-hand corner.

    But the best aspect? The sun beams. Sun beams have always suggested to me the presence of God, in paintings and in real life. And in this picture they are hitting the left side of the tower, leaving the right side of the picture in darkness. It is as if God's attention is centered on this tower that has suddenly been thrust into his domain, leaving the surrounding area bereft of His light and grace. So destroying the tower is actually a merciful action because once again the whole land can be bathed in light, the construction of the tower itself being an event where man places an impediment between him and God.

    Anyway, on an aestethic level, the sun beams add to the overall visual impact of the tower and reinforce the picture's stark lines of perspective. These lines have the effect of "stretching" the tower so to speak away from the foreground and towards the origin of those enigmatic sun beams. The viewer is left with a sense that the whole tower is pulling away from the ground and towards the sky. Magnificent!! I'd love to eventually find where the original is and stare at it for a couple solid hours. Maybe by then I'll have an A+ paper on the subject to celebrate.

    Oh well, at the very least I'm definitely going to put this picture on my cover page. Can we say "Brownie points?" Very yes. And in the meantime, it makes a fabulous wallpaper!


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