Monday, January 26, 2009

Axis Monday II: Living on Babel


Because "it takes too long to come down to ground level each day to make it worthwhile," a crane operator on the Burj Dubai – the world's tallest building – is rumored to have "been up there for over a year," the Daily Telegraph reports.
His name is Babu Sassi, and he is "a fearless young man from Kerala" who has become "the cult hero of Dubai’s army of construction workers." He also lives several thousand feet above the ground.

Their December article covers a good deal of the symbolism behind this story and is worth a read. Most intriguingly it discusses the mythologization of the construction worker, and uses the true life example of this man living atop the Burj Dubai to hint how real people become transformed into heroes immortalized in folklore.

In this case, the axis mundi transmits that legendary status directly. The Burj Dubai is certainly the profoundest symbol of Dubai (along with its artificial islands, more on those in the future, perhaps), and in a lesser sense of the secular Middle East and the world.

The unique status of the building thus imparts mythological status directly to its sole (?) inhabitant. No one cares if somebody lives in an unfinished three story tenement, except for the Law. But if you live thousands of feet above the ground, literally dwell in the sky, higher above the natural ground than any other human being--it would be shocking if the situation did not impart mystical power to this figure.

The gods which swept Europe and the Middle East as they left nomadism behind as a general rule displaced and replaced terrestrial gods, the Gaias and Earth Mothers of the world (This hypothesis is somewhat controversial and I surely will address it in great detail in the future, but for now take it at face value). These new gods as a general rule came from and lived in the Sky. Mt. Olympus is both indicative and obvious. The gods lived atop the Sacred Mountain--the axis mundi of Greece.

Mr. Babu Sassi, this cult hero of blue-collar Dubai, reigns from his throne in the sky in just the same way.

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