Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The god of Fifth Avenue

Walking down Fifth Avenue, at 50th Street one is struck by the face-off of St Patrick's Cathedral and the statue of Atlas at Rockefeller Center. While the statue is based on the Greek mythology of Atlas holding the sky/the world upon his shoulders, in the context of the architecture of Rockefeller Center, it really celebrates modernism and the power of Man. This is shown by the central place of Prometheus (who stole fire from the gods for humanity) as well as the many mosaics and reliefs celebrating the human spirit and things like "commerce", "industry", "transport" and so on.

Many have noted before that there is something of a squaring off of divine versus human. But in December, Consumption is king. It is impossible to move around at the intersection of Fifth & 50th because of holiday shoppers. And on the day after Thanksgiving, retail sales were up this year, in the midst of the most severe economic downturn for decades. I am not going to my regular office nearby there today, because of the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center making for hoardes of crowds. This is no bah humbug -- I love Christmas and love it in NYC. This is merely to point out that the old battle between cathedrals to God or cathedrals to Man have been bypassed, at least for the month of December at Fifth & 50th. The new god is StuffToBuyOnCredit and instead of cathedrals, he has many small churches (Tiffany's, Saks', Macy's, etc.) where his worshippers flock in droves.

On a lighter note, the video link is John Denver singing Silver Bells.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Sometimes, though, I wonder whether the Cathedral is also a temple to man.

But that is in my darker moments...