Friday, February 28, 2014
"A Heart Full of Ma'at"

"Hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated."
- Alice Herz-Sommer, 110 years old & the world's oldest holocaust survivor

This small captioned-photo made its way into my Facebook feed, and it has inspired a fascinating exploration. Who was this woman? The text accompanying the image said Alice Herz-Sommer, an accomplished pianist, passed away this past Sunday morning in a London hospital. At 110, she was the world's oldest survivor of the Holocaust and was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary about her life.

"What seemed to draw audiences to Mrs. Herz-Sommer above all, as Mr. Clarke’s film makes plain, was her evident lack of rancor about her wartime experience," a New York Times article recounts.

It was her musical gift which enabled her to survive the Holocaust. First off, the music uplifted her heart, but even more fortunately, a young Nazi officer who enjoyed her music assured Alice that she would not be deported to the death chambers.

Of music, Alice declared "In my opinion musicians are privileged people. It brings you from the first tone to another world, not in the world with supermarkets, and not with money, in a world with peace and beauty", as she was quoted in a BBC article on "How to Live Beyond 100".

Her gratitude is all-enclusive. "And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love," she's quoted in the BBC obituary article.

"When asked whether she was afraid of dying, she replied: 'Not at all. No. I was a good person, I helped people, I was loved, I have a good feeling. ' ", Haaretz reported.

In the afterlife, she can confidently say, as did the Middle Kingdom example who stood before Thoth, as his heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at:

"I stand before you, my heart full of ma'at, no lie in my mind."
(Jan Assmann (translated by Andrew Jenkins), The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs (Metropolitan Books, 2002), page 136)

The heart is light when it is not full of hate. Alice fully understood the 'connective justice' that is the essence of ma'at, as she said "When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive".

There is even another connection to Ma'at. Alice appreciated music with a religious fervor, so life-changing was its effect upon her. In addition to all the other subtleties of the meaning of Ma'at, "Maât is also the symbol of harmony, in the sense of accurate tones and perfect musical accords. In the New Kingdom (after1567 BC) harps are often decorated with a figure of Maât." (from _Egyptian Mysteries_, by Lucie Lamy, page 17)

I am inspired by Alice Herz-Sommer's example. Already I feel richer to have met her through her words, which will surely endure.

A beautiful feather of Ma'at made by Bezenwepwy,
(parked here for photographing purposes on the stylized scarab I designed and had laser-cut).

Sunday, March 2, 2014
"Music and Ma'at, Music and Magic"

At first, a stream of consciousness attempt:
Music and Ma'at, Music and Magic

When in the celebration of life, great things come to mind,
they are bidden, they are sent.
When in the celebration of life, great things we find,
joy in the heart and harmony,
at once union and individuality.
This is my voice, this is its part,
here's how it sounds with others,
strengthening the call.
Here we adore Ma'at,
Here we strengthen her Being.
Here we find wholeness,
here we find oneness.
Hear, we are uplifted,
uplifted to the heavens,
Ode to joy.

With that, I was reminded of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", which he wrote to Schiller's words. A Christian "Hymn of Joy" was written to Beethoven's tune.

Knowing how Alice Sommers adored Beethoven, I had to make my own wordy attempt. I have three more stanzas to go, but I have the first one:

Nefer Ma'at, Joy of Hearts

Nefer ma'at, nefer ma'at,
lifts our hearts to know such joy.
Netjer Ma'at, netjer Ma'at
watches and weighs true worth.
Nature in its varie-ed splendor
sings a song both true and fierce.
Nurture each expression of life,
for it assures our freedom.

Nefer ma'at = "Beautiful truth" (the concept)
Netjer Ma'at = "Goddess Ma'at" (the deity)

"Leonard Bernstein reminded his audiences, the poem was originally an 'Ode to Freedom' and the word 'Joy' (Freude instead of Freiheit, added to the third pillar, Freundschaft) came as a substitute for the more overtly political theme." (Source: Harper's Magazine, November 9, 2008) Knowing this, I wanted to include the concept of 'freedom'.

I wanted to create a word sound flow: 'Nefer' to 'Netjer' to 'Nature' to 'Nurture'.

I found the tune online.

Sunday, March 9, 2014
"Ma'at Hieroglyph"

Ink pen and colored pencil on print of enhanced original sketch, 17.8 x 25.3 cm (7 x 10 in.),
The original was too wobbly to work with!

You're welcome to print this out and color it yourself!
(I used a flipped version of a Ma'at glyph in Seti I's temple at Abydos as a model.)

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