From the Museum of the Americas, I walked down a fairly major street and carefully dodged the copious amounts of dog poo in an attempt to reach ancient Egypt. Smack dab in the middle of Madrid, there stood an authentic Egyptian temple dedicated to the god Amun called the Temple of Debod. Even after going there, I still have no idea what the word Debod means. I never did figure out if Debod was a god or a city or if the word Debod actually meant anything. I guess that it didn’t matter, though, because not knowing what the word meant did not take away from the experience of standing inside an ancient Egyptian structure.
The fact that this temple now sits under a Spanish sky rather than the Egyptian sun was a testament to how time truly marches on. Had this temple remained in Egypt, fish would have been swimming through its doors because the Aswan dam would have placed this temple underwater. A handful of other temples, including a colossal one known as Abu Simbel, were facing a similar fate and had to be moved to higher ground. Moving Abu Simbel proved to be no small feat, and it was not something that Egypt could have done by itself. Spain was among the countries that assisted in that endeavor; thus, the Temple of Debod was awarded to Spain in thanks for their participation.
The ancient Egyptians are gone and will never come back to reclaim anything that they used to own. Proof that they ever existed at all lies in the buildings that they left behind. The closest connection that anyone can get to ancient Egypt is by experiencing one of their temples where time and space hang suspended in rooms intended to be inhabited by gods. The essence of the ancient mind infused the temple walls, and it is in there where modern man goes in search of ancient truths. All of religion was born in an Egyptian temple. Amun became Zeus to the Greeks. Amun became Jupiter to the Romans. Amun became God to the Christians. All prayers end in praise of Amun (or Amen, or Amn -the Egyptians did not write out their vowels.)
As I stood alone in the Temple of Debod, I took a moment to absorb all of my thoughts. It was in here where I thought that either the lie began or the truth was discovered. Either God was invented within those walls, or God revealed himself to humankind within this domain. Very likely, neither event occurred, and Amun just was. That’s it, just was. Kind of like how the notion of God is something that is typically just felt inside. The Egyptians desired to build a house for that feeling. They took an abstract idea and gave it a tangible appearance. All the churches and mosques that are built today serve the same purpose. Religion is something that is found within, and putting walls around a set of beliefs is something that humans feel compelled to do. The ancient Egyptians codified the technique; all we do today is follow their original blueprint.
There was such a feeling of peace inside the Temple of Debod that I found it difficult to pull myself away from it. I didn’t want to leave that domain knowing full well that the world was not a particularly peaceful place to be in. Moreover, I knew what was coming next, and it was going to be nothing like an Egyptian temple. In Madrid, one can find God, or one could lose God. One can lose God by looking at a Picasso.
I actually can’t stand Picasso’s style of art. I find his crazy shapes and stupid eyeballs annoying, and I would never normally go out of my way to see a Picasso painting. Still, everyone needs to see his Guernica painting in person if they genuinely want to know what human beings are capable of. We have the capacity to be cruel. We have the ability to inflict pain and suffering. We will use war as an excuse to do terrible things to each other.
Picasso’s artistic style translated the feeling of war through a prism of disjointed shapes and dismembered bodies. The painting has a voice, and it screams via a menagerie of tangled throats. The horrified cries of horses, women, and children meld together in a ghastly crescendo. One does not look at this painting of Guernica; one listens to it. No other painting in the entire world is as loud as this one.
There is no God in Guernica, only man. It demonstrates the worst of what we are capable of. We humans are the cause of the worst sort of pain. I was going to say that it is a painting that demonstrates what happens when God fails man, but it is not that. It is a painting that demonstrates what happens when man fails himself. The figures in Guernica are raising their hands to the sky in a desperate attempt of prayer, but their prayers are not being heard. It is man that is doing these terrible things to himself, not God. As I said, there is no God in Guernica, so don’t go looking for him there. Go to Temple of Debod if you want to find God, but don’t go there after looking at this painting, for it might make you think that it’s all bullshit. If there was a God, why did so many women and children of Guernica get slaughtered like cattle? It made no sense. See, I told you Spain was going to be a mind-fuck. Welcome to my rabbit hole. I hope you brought some drinks ’cause we’re gonna be hanging out down here for a while.
thanx for reading! this was an excerpt from my second travel novel, Time Traveled coming out soon! Until then, my first travel novel is out now!