Tuesday, June 28, 2016

First World Problems in 12th Dynasty Egypt, 3,800 years ago

I visited the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose this past weekend. I have observed an interesting contrast in museums. The magnificent museums in great cities have collections too great to display, half or more of the artifacts are stored in the basement. The collection is wonderful but often the curation is mediocre.

In contrast, out in smaller cities, where the collections, while good, are generally smaller, the curation can often be much stronger.

I have spent many dozens of hours in the British Museum over decades. It is a wonder. I love it.

But at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, the collection is good and more than competently displayed. On top of that they had several very nice touches which I have not seen anywhere else. In particular, they have a life size replica of a multi-chamber tomb of a scribe/priest. Very, very neat to walk through to get a sense of the original setting of the tomb goods and paintings.

One item that especially caught my eye was a translation of the papyrus, Dispute between a Man and His Ba (soul). The brief synopsis is that a man, weighed down by the burdens of life, argues with his soul about his sad condition. His soul argues the opposite case.

There was a particular line, apparently deriving from Miriam Lichtheim's translation that had an odd echo across the millennia.
What do you gain by complaining about life like a wealthy man.
That made me smile. Nearly 4,000 years ago there were First World Problems and the whining one percenters living in their bubbles of privilege were even then a nuisance.



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