Thursday, 26 April 2012

ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME: The Human Body and Idealism

“In the West, ideas about the human body have been dominated by Ancient Greek and Roman ideas of the 'body beautiful'. This ideal, represented by the perfect physique of classical sculptures, such as the discus-thrower, was widely admired, particularly amongst the patrician (ruling) classes.
The philosopher, Aristotle, advised getting rid of a child if it was imperfect. Greek law even dictated that a newborn baby was not really a child until seven days after birth, so that an imperfect child could be disposed of with a clear conscience. From these beliefs arose the enduring idea that 'good' looked beautiful and the deformed and disabled were 'bad'.” 

The Townley Discobolus at the British Museum, with incorrectly restored head.

Aristotle, being revered through the ages, as a respected philosopher, it is almost imaginable that such an advisement took place. It is certainly not public knowledge but an aspect of history that involves research on the particular subject. Knowing that the respected norm and law of Greek land, considered ridding a disabled child of his/her life, leads me to understanding why persons with various labelled disabilities, in contemporary society are categorised on the lower level of a cultural hierarchy. Idealism is an historic facet of human culture that has evolved yet still very present in modern society. It shows that people want more than what reality provides them, yet it has affected the "non-perfect" persons of society. But what could be most idealistic, is if people started being grateful what they already have and what already exists in reality.

I recall a conversation with a fellow student at NUCA; she explained that her practice was involved with the genetic programming associated with food. Through her research she found that a genetic link in humans desire for sweet food dated back to the Neanderthals. This desire resulted from the massive availability of savoury things such as meat and fish overbalancing on the amount of honey available, creating a yearning for the less available foods and a human feature that has evolved and yet still exists. 

There is a definitive feature in humans, where the is usually a strong desire for something they don't have, can't have or will never have. However, a Utopia is not so far-fetched. Perhaps if people stopped trying to fix things, perfect things and instead worked on themselves, and appreciated what is rather than fixated on what could be, a Utopia, an idealistic world could be realised. 

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