The Symmetry of Absence

The Symmetry of Absence

The “Euthydikos Kore”. After 480 BC
Parian marble (statue). Pentelic marble (base). The inscription states the Euthydikos, son of Thaliarchos, dedicated (the statue).
New Acropolis Museum.

Kelly Mason, on her Cowbird feed, writes:
“Parthenon and Taj Mahal
Symmetry in stone”

I’ve had the great good fortune to see the Taj Mahal. The first time, as a 12-year old, overwhelmed because I was awash with the pull and flow of otherness— a second generation Indian, born and bred in Africa, visiting India to get some culture, as my parents put it. Yet, full of wonder at the sight of this structure.

The second time, thirty-nine years old, with my parents whispering and recounting stories about this ancient land and my forebearers, I ached for family. And the seeds were planted of symmetry as being an emotional state.

Years later, now with my wonderful wife and two young sons, I visited and walked to the Acropolis. The Parthenon, still potent with its intellectual and structural symmetry, is wondrous. Perhaps that is the word’s full meaning; wonder: to feel consumed by the fullest possible manifestation of form and artistry, to be in the presence of something that one senses being a part of, yet only a diminutive part of what brought it into being. I thought I could not feel more.

My small family and a few friends walked down to the New Acropolis Museum. (Thank you, forever, to Lea Cline and Annie Hooton.)

A crisp, glowing and enlightened piece of design, this must be one of the finest museums. It is new, unmistakably so. And yet, it does nothing, as any complete structure should do, to diminish its ancient contents. That was…

…When I saw the Euthydikos Kore, suspended at either end of space. It did not matter that pieces were missing. The light, pouring across and into it, seemed to be melding its form with my emotional state, and everything seemed right and full. Balanced and symmetrical. Then, I realized that symmetry could never be contained within a structure, or be self-reflective. Symmetry is a conjoining of form and structure and emotion. Symmetry is dynamic and fluid. And it needs an other that is not within it.

Where the Euthydikos Kore is absent, there we are. Symmetry in stone and emotion.

Kelly Mason writes about the Egyptian pyramids too. I hope to visit them one day. But for now, I think of them and the Fayum portraits incessantly, because I know they pertain to this same understanding of symmetry. When the other is not the other, we have symmetry.