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23 Chunks of Being:

Gregory Grieve’s Experiments in Transmitting Pure actuality

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20. Cattle like Cattle (1983)

watercolor on paper

ἀλλ᾽ εἰ χεῖρας ἔχον βόες <ἵπποι τ᾽> ἠὲ λέοντες ἢ γράψαι χείρεσσι καὶ ἔργα τελεῖν ἅπερ ἄνδρες, ἵπποι μέν θ᾽ ἵπποισι βόες δέ τε βουσὶν ὁμοίας καί <κε> θεῶν ἰδέας ἔγραφον καὶ σώματ᾽ ἐποίουν τοιαῦθ᾽ οἷόν περ καὐτοὶ δέμας εἶχον <ἕκαστοι>.


But if cattle and horses and lions had hands or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do, horses like horses and cattle like cattle also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies of such a sort as the form they themselves have.


This piece was created by Grieve early in his life when he was seeking his own understanding of how religion and spirituality transmit actuality. It is based on the work of the ancient Greek philosopher, Xenophanes of Colophon (Ξενοφάνης ὁ Κολοφώνιος) (570 – c. 478 BCE).  Xenophane is a pre-Socratic philosopher, theologian, poet, and of particular importance for Grieve, a critic of religious polytheism. Xenophanes’s writings cast doubt on Greek myths which portray the gods as petty and immoral and cite the fact that human beings create gods in their own image. Xenophanes' surviving writings display a skepticism that became more commonly expressed during the following fourth century BCE. He is quoted in Clement of Alexandria to argue against the conception of gods as fundamentally anthropomorphic. He satirized traditional Greek religious views of his time as human projections, and aimed his critique at the polytheistic religious views of earlier Greek poets and of his own contemporaries: “Homer and Hesiod,” one fragment states, “have attributed to the gods all sorts of things that are matters of reproach and censure among men: theft, adultery, and mutual deception.”

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