Friday 6 January 2012
Very Good Paragraphs
Filed under Very Good Paragraphs
From Elif Batuman’s piece in the 19/26 Dec 2011 New Yorker on GÃ¶bekli Tepe, the oldest man-made thing in the world:
After my last afternoon at GÃ¶bekli Tepe, I decided to devote the rest of the day to the other Urfa pilgrimageâ€”the Abraham one [Urfa claims to house a cave where Abraham was born]. I walked along teeming sidewalks, among street vendors selling pomegranates, lottery tickets, novelty Koreans, fresh pistachio nuts, sherbet, bitter coffee, photocopies. One man was literally selling snake oilâ€”a thing I had never seen beforeâ€”in addition to ant-egg oil, hair tonic, and unscented soap for pilgrims. Handbills advertised a conference called “Understanding the Prophet Abraham in the 21st Century.” A psychiatrist with a storefront office specialized in “ailments of the nerves and soul.” Most restaurants had signs that said “WE HAVE A FAMILY ROOM!”â€”meaning that the main dining room was for men only. About eighty-five per cent of the pedestrians were men. Nearly all the women were wearing head scarves, or even burkas. I saw one woman so pious that her burka didn’t even have an opening for her eyes. She was leaving a cell-phone store, accompanied by a teen-age boy wearing a T-shirt that said “RELAX MAN,” over a picture of an ice-cream cone playing an electric guitar. You wouldn’t thin an ice-cream cone could play an electric guitar, or would want to. I was reminded of Schmidt’s hypothesis that hybrid creatures and monsters, unknown to Neolithic man, are particular to highly developed culturesâ€”cultures which have achieved distance from and fear of nature. If archaeologists of the future found this T-shirt, they would know ours had been a civilization of great refinement.
2012-01-06 :: dave