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    Eseuri: Stefan Arteni . The East-Central European Cultural Model. 7
    Scris la Thursday, January 07 @ 13:28:36 CET de catre asymetria
    Etnografie One of the fundamental insights that has been leading Lucian Blaga’s thought is the concept of Mioritic Space. The expression refers to the folk poem Mioritza¹. Blaga coined this metaphoric yet infinitely synthetic expression in the 1930s to encapsulate his philosophy of culture. Unfortunately, Blaga's philosophy has never received much attention while, over the years, the often-abused word ‘mioritic’ has come to have pejorative connotations. We will set out to reclaim and vindicate the concept of Mioritic Space.


    Stefan Arteni
    The East-Central European Cultural Model. 7. An Apologia For The Mioritic Semiosphere.
      Motto.
    From the very moment his humanness was declared, the human being amply surmised that the present-at-hand was neither his place, nor his aim, nor the nest of his calling…
                      (Lucian Blaga)
      Oh, Full-Of-Mercy, Thou, the one who
    Out of two carps and five rolled breads
    Fashioned a mountain high of victuals
    To satiate destitute crowds,
      Repeat, You Good One, Thine miracle
    And feed thousands of hungry mouths,
    Then kindly prayer mine do hearken:
    Give me a basketful of crumbs!
                      (Nichifor Crainic)
        One of the fundamental insights that has been leading Lucian Blaga’s thought is the concept of Mioritic Space. The expression refers to the folk poem Mioritza¹. Blaga coined this metaphoric yet infinitely synthetic expression in the 1930s to encapsulate his philosophy of culture. Unfortunately, Blaga's philosophy has never received much attention while, over the years, the often-abused word ‘mioritic’ has come to have pejorative connotations. We will set out to reclaim and vindicate the concept of Mioritic Space.
      Below is a selection of brief excerpts from Lucian Blaga’s 1936 “The Mioritic Space”. Says Blaga: “Let us listen.to one of our ‘doinas’²…it is not difficult to fathom a very particular horizon opening up in the background of the ‘doina’. This horizon is the ‘plai’ [hillside, pastureland]. ‘Plai’, that is to say, a lofty open plane, on a green mountain slope, flowing slowly toward the valley…a specific horizon: a high, rhythmic and undefined horizon formed by hill and valley…Let us call this matrix-space, high and vaguely undulated, carrying the specific accents of a certain feeling of fate: the mioritic space… …a sketchy space articulated by lines and accents, somewhat schematically structured, located in any case beyond the contingencies of immediate nature...”
      In his “Horizon and Style”, written in the 1930s, Lucian Blaga construes the paradoxical topology of the mioritic space as the problematic of endlessness: “The man of the mioritic space has the feeling of a seemingly permanent, wavy, going onward, of an undulated infinitude. The man of the mioritic space senses fate as an endless, monotonously iterated, ascending and descending”. 
      In the 1984 essay entitled “On the semiosphere”, Yuri Mikhailovich Lotman, founder of the Estonian Tartu school of cultural semiotics, introduced the all-embracing term semiosphere, which he defined as the space of culture, an abstract space which is “a conglomerate of boundaries defining everchanging internal and external spaces”, a space where the local and socio-cultural segments intersect and overlap within the semiospheric wholeness. John Hartley comments that “there is more than one level at which one might identify a semiosphere - at the level of a single national or linguistic culture, for instance, or of a larger unity such as ‘the West’, right up to ‘the species’; we might similarly characterize the semiosphere of a particular historical period.”
      Yuri Lotman asserts that  “the border…is the territory of accelerated semiotic processes,  which are always occurring at the periphery of the cultural space.” Peripheries are the most dynamic parts of the semiospheres. At the same time, centre and periphery are positions which are open to fluidity.
      The communist experiment may be epitomized in the ambition to attempt a global reconfiguration of the human condition. Lotman was active during the heydays of Soviet communism. He aptly underscored the existence within the totalitarian marxist-leninist oikoumene of a permanent form of 'bipolar asymmetry' of  'them' and  'us' (them versus us) which consists of the separation of the hegemonic centre, with its official grip, and periphery (concepts like periphery and border are not only spatial indicators, they include also constructed peripheries and borders; in other words they include all those excluded, marginalized and pushed to the periphery, all those on the proscription lists, the banished, the outcasts, the refugees and the exiles, in short, the concepts listed above may become allegories of subversion). Cultural difference means variety in the reception and appropriation of modernity. When center and periphery have little in common, the center, real or symbolic, strives to extend its norms over the whole semiosphere: an imported, externally imposed program tries to subdue every part of the system, confining its opposite in the field of the inexistent and incorrect.  Such a take-over is not just a seizure of the present, it is a seizure of cultural memory (the Egyptologist Jan Assmann speaks of cultural memory as a connective structure founding group identity through ritual and a textual coherence).
      Striving toward globalization obviously coincides with an attempt to homogenize and level differences. The disappearance of traditions is akin to Yuri Lotman’s idea of the semiosphere stripped of its creative diversity. The sought-for global village has been described long ago by Nichifor Crainic: „The sense of the global village consists in the exhaustion of all cultural possibilities, in  the barrenness, in the physical barrenness even, of human beings left without a metaphysics: the profligate materialism and all ethic and aesthetic ’isms’, up to washed-out internationalism”.
      The semiosphere concept is now widely known and has become a universal instrument of description of any culture. It closely resembles the model proposed by Lucian Blaga. We will therefore update our terminology. Henceforth we shall speak of a mioritic semiosphere.
      We now go back to the beginning and look again at Blaga’s “The Mioritic Space”: it also explains the existence of small ethnic and/or cultural and/or religious enclaves, extraneous semiospheric fragments located within the boundaries of a semiosphere: “…sometimes there may be a contradiction between the structure of the spatial horizon of the unconscious and the configurative structure of the landscape in which we live…often, cultures or souls with radically different spatial horizons may coexist in the same landscape”. Consequently, a number of disparate discourses may coexist while the particular fragments may evolve in a nonsynchronic way. Romanesque and Gothic enclaves were present within the mioritic semiosphere. Constantin Brancusi’s art may be regarded as a mioritic fragment, although he created most of his works in Paris. In fact, Brancusi once said: “…with my ‘newness’, I hail from something ancient…”
      The lands of East-Central Europe always functioned as a cultural crossroads. Crossroads, once considered to be the most magical places, may undoubtedly become infernal liminal zones. Such has been the semiospheric experience of the Romanians who always found themselves on the boundaries of two or more cultures. The mioritic semiosphere with its multiple inner centers and the boundaries that specify its regions (subsemiospheres) has been characterized by Blaga as a model of “borderland (marchland) situation” [ ‘situatie hotarnica’: the Romanian word ‘hotar’ means both edge, boundary, and  area, territory, as in township area ]. It is also the locus of intersection of borderlands of larger historical semiospheres, the borderlands of the Greco-Roman and of the Orthodox-Byzantine worlds, the borderland of Islam, the borderland of the West and the borderland of the Eastern steppes. It is the space of mythologically oriented, archaic consciousness. The mioritic semiosphere may also be described as a multimtemporal, polychronic web, a mixed ensemble of times contemporary only in their assemblage, thus reinforcing the palimpsestic metaphor. The borderland or marchland is a region which both separates and unites. It maintains the semiophere in a state of creative ferment as a border zone experiential site of coupling and mixing cultures and transcending untranslatability. "The boundary is a zone of semiotic polyglotism", writes Jola ©kulj.  She continues:  "Selfhood is not inevitably sameness".
      In his seminal 1998 ”Etnoaesthetics”, Petru Ursache writes: „The periphery has always been a stable and creative force in Romanian beingness, it has never been a destructive or nomadic force like in other cultures”.
    In the section directly preceding the lines quoted above, Ursache has commented on the ballad of master Manole, the builder of Aromanian origin (in other words, belonging to the southernmost area of Romanianness) and on the ritual foundation act that enables the construction of a church, a center or an axis mundi, namely the church at Curtea de Arges (the actual church is located in the heartland of Wallachia). All sacred places, all ritually founded shrines,  constitute centers of the world. The idea of  axis mundi is thematized by Ursache in a later writing: ”...what Eliade called Centre...does not simply hint to one or more fixed points...but to an infinity. For it is known that genezic matter is charged with limitless potentialities. Anywhere, in any small village, on any cosmic meridian, an axis, a temple may be constructed...” (Petru Ursache, „Timp si ne-timp”, Memoria Ethnologica, Anul VII 2007, nr. 24-25). In a private communication dated December 1, 2009, Petru Ursache asserts : “Blaga and Eliade – carriers of the dacian-mioritic matrix – are our precursors”.
      In Hindu mythology, the heaven of Indra contains a net of pearls. Each pearl is reflected in its neighbor so that the whole universe is mirrored in each pearl including the reflections of all the reflections, so that each pearl has a sequence of nested reflections (Felix Klein started with infinitely repeated reflections and was led to forms which are the chaotic images of symmetry). Such appears to be the mioritic semiosphere: it is an infinite game of centres and peripheries, an intricate kaleidoscope of reflections. 
      Petru Ursache’s “Etnoaesthetics” also deals with the truths that ground folk axiology and with the rhetoric of visualization as an earmark of mioritic tradition: “In its theoretical-imaginal constructions, tradition has operated with the concepts of truth, goodness, beauty, faith… ...traditional poetic texts, especially myth and legend which are the most philosophical ones, operate with concepts-image”. (It may be worth mentioning here that Mark Johnson and George Lakoff have pointed out the role played by dynamic cognitive constructs known as pre-conceptual image schemata, structural or topological schemata of forms and forces that arise from embodied experience. Schemata are suitable to provide ‘metaphorical’ scaffolding. Lakoff offers evidence that different cultures structure the world in different ways).
      Petru Ursache’s aim in his startling and beautiful 2006 “Ethnosofy”, is to make us understand the necessity of folk epistemology as a way of comprehending our own nature. The book seeks to investigate native categories and principles and is rich in anthropological insights, but it also may be read and re-read as a story of the origins of mioritic self-consciousness.
      At the very outset, Ursache proposes his thesis that “…the Carpathic peasant used to say ‘to preserve our being’, either in a religious sense or in a historical-ethnographic sense”.
    He then sets his analysis amidst a discussion of paremiology. To quote Ursache: “...this  miniature  philosophy of the fragment which is called paremiology…does not impose models which will bring about an uniformization of thought. It prefers the regime of variation. The forms of meditation are verified in socio-human contexts, and these are in a permanent dynamic flow… …paremiology ensures a reflexive support for the entirety of religious behaviour, a necessary harmony between immediate spiritualized experience and responsible meditation, under the protection of divine thought.”
      Ursache  leads us through a maze, back to the wellsprings of culture: “...the riddle...puts us in touch with the technique of pre-forming and forming (not of formulation) of the notion...[the Latin word ‘notionem’ was coined by Cicero as loan-translation of Greek ‘ennoia’, act of thinking] …The saying was a dictum, a prestigious logos, foundation of order and culture”.
      Such is the tale of a culture. Whoever enters the story shares the story, for it is the first major step into the world of folk wisdom, the world of archetypal lore and of its careful guardians. In his “Ethnosofy”, Petru Ursache recalls the legacy embodied in a timeless mythical Thracian figure: “This first age of the One Logos, supreme and full of authority, was safeguarded as a remembrance in the legend of Orpheus.”
      Notes:
      (1) In “Ethnoaesthetics”, Petru Ursache gives an account of the distinctive features of Mioritza: “In its historical evolution, Mioritza appears as a system of integrated and transparent texts…a poem characterized by a paradoxical and impossible combination of genres…Mioritza is a masterpiece which outlines, in sensuous and dramatic images, an epic vision of an existence marked by fate…From a literary and musical viewpoint, Miorita has been concretized in more than 1200 variants known over the entire carpatho-danubian and dniestro-pontic area”.
      (2) The ‘doina’ also is discussed by Petru Ursache in his “Ethnoaesthetics”: “Let us recall what B.P.Hasdeu has said about the originary sense of the word ‘doina’, which in the beginning signified not only a song [a heroic song, according to D.Cantemir], but also a sacred law”.
                   

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