Guest Blog: The Mundane Egg by Theodora van der Beek

Theodora van der Beek’s Egg is returning to Camden People’s Theatre this Friday and Saturday. Here she reveals a sneak peak of what to expect. Don’t forget to book your tickets here

The Mundane Egg – a Lecture

A beginning – hatching from the egg, a universe, or primordial being. A concept resurrected in modern science in the 1930s, reconciling Edwin Hubble’s expanding universe with the notion that it also must be eternally old. 13.8 billion years ago the entire mass of the universe was compressed into a gravitational singularity. he big bang, and boom! The universe expanded to its current state.

H.P. Blatvatsky writes:

‘Whence this universal symbol? The egg was incorporated as a sacred sign in the cosmogony of every people on the Earth, and was revered both on account of its form and its inner mystery. From the earliest mental conceptions of man it was known as that which most successfully represented the origin and secret of being’.

The Finnish Kalevala, an epic poem derived from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore, describes how the first man hatched from a bird’s egg and:

One egg’s lower half transformed
And became the earth below,
And its upper half transmuted
And became the sky above;
From the yolk the sun was made,
Light of day to shine upon us;
From the white the moon was formed,
Light of night to gleam above us;
All the colored brighter bits
Rose to be the stars of heaven
And the darker crumbs changed into
Clouds and cloudlets in the sky. (song 1: 209-282)

Moreover, it is not only in creation myths; in art, eggs are one of the most commonly referenced objects. Salvador Dali had a fascination with eggs. Here he is at his house in Spain.


He was familiar with the teachings of Freud, and enjoyed the ‘indoors/ outdoors, hard/soft contrast which was consistent with the psychological notion that individuals make defenses (hard) around the vulnerable psyche (flexible).’ (Dali museum, Paris.)

 

The artist claimed his painting ‘Eggs on a Plate without the Plate’ was inspired by an intra-uterine memory. He remembered his time in the womb ‘as though it was yesterday’, where he had the most splendid vision of a pair of eggs in a pan without the pan.

Eggs also feature in his work ‘The Great Masturbator’, but we won’t go into that now.

 

In literature, Gunter Grass begins his poem ‘In The Egg’:

‘We live in the egg.
We have covered the inside wall of the shell with dirty drawings
And the Christian names of our enemies.
We are being hatched.’

Thus, we begin to notice another thing about the egg – it is frequently ridiculous, absurd.

Hieronymous Bosch must surely have been aware of this when he set a concert in an egg in his painting ‘Concert in the Egg’.

The singers form the yolk, representing fools, as in, yokels.

George Bataille goes one step further in ‘The Story of the Eye’, equating eggs with animal testes. But we won’t go into that now.

Hitchcock was terrified of eggs.

Picasso believed that if you went in search of the pure form, you arrived inevitably at the egg, and Wilde declared that an egg is ‘always an adventure’.

Why, we might ask, have so many artists and thinkers been drawn to eggs?

It is uniquely qualified, not just as ​a universal symbol but t​ he universal symbol, sent down to Earth to remind us of our strength, but also our fragility; our possibility, but also our limitation; our meaning but also our meaninglessness.

Let me end with a quote from biophysicist Sir John Randall:

“An egg is a chemical process, but it is not a mere chemical process, it is one that is going places, even when, in our world of chance and contingency, it ends up in an omelette and not in a chicken. Though it surely be a chemical process we cannot understand it adequately without knowing the chicken it has the power to become.”

 theodoravanderbeek.com | @tdbeek