Friday, April 30, 2010
The Decision Day
a by-product, simply waiting to be decided.
Are we modern decision kings, or is decision a king, that is controlling us to the game?!
The belief that we are the kings of decisions is unquestioned by any modern rationale, but some unusual past examples can reduce this belief to a myth. Such sample that rocked the lives and souls of millions is the mysterious decision-making procedure, which Bulgarian king Boris I underwent in 865.
(C. Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, 1986,as told earlier by Theophanes Continuatus)
It relates a decision of magnanimous proportions, but of seemingly effortless nature.
The story opens in a descriptive register punctuated with a passionate ton of experience:
"The Bulgarian ruler Boris, who was consumed by a great passion for hunting, wished to represent subjects of that kind in one of the palaces that he used frequently, so that he might enjoy the sight by day and night."
The king’s motivation point - to have a visual enjoyment sight brings a reasonable decision target in focus besides revealing the high cultural standards of the Court – it will be explored "by day and night".
Having identified the objective, the king’s second step was to introduce immediate action plan – an essential decision tactics, which believes that long thinking kills action. Just do it!
And he did it in style!
"Seized by this desire, he summoned one of our Roman monks, a painter named Methodius, and when the latter came into his presence, he commanded him (through some divine inspiration) to paint not killing of men in battle or the slaughter of wild beasts, but anything he might wish, on condition that the sight of the painting would induce fear and amazement in its spectator."
The third step opens a vista into the deep structure of the decision-making process, identified by the classical thinkers with the "Muses", today - a challenging psychological conception, here – simply marked as "some divine inspiration".
The forth step confirms its special nature by having all available target options cancelled – neither men in battle, nor slaughtered wild beasts should find place in the representation,
thus effectively closing an old and turning a new page in cultural history.
Against the silent empty space, the fifth decision-making step bursts like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony opening – "fear and amazement" is the destined duo that is knocking on the page to take its profound intangible place.
A high drama is set up - the ego is deprived from its familiar winning visions, instead, the most uncomfortable spiritual foundation – fear is sought for, while the most elusive emotional pinnacle – amazement, is demanded as a partner! These are the new players of the decision game and they loom high and stunning in the call of the most powerful man.
Now comes the reality point, when the artist acts after the given instructions. His own decision-making process is swift and strait forward in choosing the best known option,
worthy of a man in noble quest:
"The painter, who did not know of any subject more apt to inspire fear, than the Second Coming of the Lord, depicted it there with the righteous on one side receiving the reward of their labor, and the sinner on the other, reaping the fruits of their misdeeds and being harshly driven away to the punishment that had been threatened to them."
Now enters the king to unravel the destined denouement:
"When Boris had seen the finished painting, he conceived thereby the fear of God and after being instructed in the Holy mysteries, he partook of divine Baptism in the dead of night."
The call of the king has been answered: the new players have sealed the game with an instant effect – instruction and baptism! It is a rare glimpse into the reality of a concept as subtle as the aesthetic catharsis, here so powerful as to move history. A sample about art as a decision making force, or to be more precise, when art became the king of a king.
This 9th century decision-making procedure captures the imagination not only with its swift and unexpected action turns, but also with its unparalleled intensity and scope.
Indeed, this personal act of radical change was followed by the Christianization of the entire Bulgarian nation. But to move art from the wall onto the street proved a dramatic act. The king who did not want to see bloodshed in a picture, actually had it on the streets in order to achieve the effect of the picture in massive, when some of the leading figures refused to be impressed!
At the same time he brought to them the Lord’s word in pure Bulgarian, delivered in a script devised especially for this language and for the new religion, an unparalleled historic phenomenon!
He welcomed Orthodox scholars and writers, sponsored a massive educational programme with extraordinary book production, constructions of churches and monasteries and converted his nation from Tangra worshipers into the leading mind of the Slavonic peoples.
But – that was not all. The grand finale was jet to come.
In 889 some quarter of a century after his unique choice-making, the king grew to another challenge and in his customary fashion, abided to the call of the image –
he exchanged his secular title for that of a monk, the purple mantle - for a black robe, the scepter - for a cross, the palace – for a monastery and the power - for prayer.
Indeed, king-monk Boris-Mikhail presents an impressive image of an explorer-reformer, who uses aesthetic psychological orchestration in order to achieve reforming intensity, sustained by a controversial negative feeling of fear, balanced with amazement. Modern positivists will possibly argue against such stressful combination, but because of the fact that it was incited by an image and abided by a king, it will probably receive the appreciation of the modern ego opposition for its humbling effect, and of the literati for its function as a novelistic inner journey-to-the self.
The fact that it was all light up by an abstract image makes him a modern visionary too. It is very likely that the image had become part of his midset, in a way familiar today to conceptual art-lovers.
Obviously, this faithfulness proved an all consuming engagement, and not surprisingly, king Boris lost most of his military battles, finally to abandon them completely.
But isn’t peace exactly what the art’s mission is,
even when by default, or as a by-product!
However, on the spiritual battlefield heroes are of different nature and his enigmatic inspirational example of one, who had won all the battles against the ego,
was to be preserved posthumously: he was canonized a saint with his Holy day being designated as the day of his departure from the worldly battlefield – 2nd May 907.
This is an important day in the Orthodox calendar - the first Bulgarian Christian king’s day, symbolically The Decision day, alternatively - the Art’s power day