Friday, July 03, 2009

Stevian Saga

The millinerd Rick Steves love/hate saga continues. His Borghese audio tour describes Bernini's statue of Apollo hunting Daphne. Bernini, as you well know, depicts the very moment of Apollo's attainment, when Daphne turns into a tree. Rick explains that the moral of the story, for the Roman cardinals who commissioned such objects, is that worldy pleasures don't satisfy. Then Rick's selective Lutheranism chimes in:
The place to contemplate that, is the Vatican.
Sorry Rick, but your protests would mean a lot more if they came from someone who doesn't encourage middle-aged Americans to their forego their Yankee workohol and pursue the European good life to the point of toking up in Amsterdam. Sheesh.

But Rick always wins me back, and he did so this time with a quip from his Athens/Peloponnese guidebook:
After eight years on the road, an exhausted Alexander died at the age of 32, but by then he had created the largest empire ever. (What have you accomplished lately?)
Maybe it was the Mythos, but I found that rather funny. And speaking of Alexander, one answer to Rick's question came in Meteora (where I am now), in a fresco at Kalambaka's Church of the Dormition. Therein, St. Sisoi stands by the skeletized remains of Alexander the Great, accompanied by an inscription:
As the great Hermit was looking at the unburied corpse of King Alexander, who once shined full of glory, he shuddered and, fully persuaded of the purposelessness of this present life and glory, behold he cries, O immortal, who can avoid you?
Well played sixteenth century inland Cretan fresco, well played.