You see people walking around dressed in long, white robes. You go outside and soon you get to know that you’re in Babylonia.
As soon as you enter the king’s court, you witness something unusual. The ministers are standing tall with their hands behind their back and the king is going one by one to each minister, greeting him and bowing before him.
“Kings are not supposed to bow before ministers! It’s the other way round. This is impossible. Either he’s a ridiculously humble king or…”
Height and status
That’s why ministers bow before a king and not the other way round. Bowing is just an attempt to reduce your height and acknowledge the ‘higher’ status of the other person.
Today, most of us don’t wear hats but when we salute others, we bring our hand to our forehead and jerk it forward, as if trying to remove a non-existent hat. Or we decrease our height with a slight head nod when we greet people.
This is why even if a person believes that god is in his heart, he raises his hands and looks up to the sky when he prays. No one prays looking down in a canyon or a gorge.
There is a reason why most temples, shrines and other holy places are often located atop mountains and hills. They are places of worship for something ‘higher’. Also, you might have noticed that the statues of the gods throughout history were all made very tall. The more powerful a god, the taller it’s statue.
Even today, when people make statues of famous political figures, freedom fighters or revolutionists, they make sure that these statues are tall enough, at least taller than humans. This gives these important historical figures a ‘godly’ status.
Where did this human propensity to associate height with power and status come from?
Well, it has a lot to do with control. The more we can control a thing, the less powerful we perceive it to be and the more we think something to be beyond our control, the more powerful we perceive it to be.
Human beings since antiquity have felt in control of the things around them, especially the things physically lower than them. We have been modifying our immediate environment for a long time now. We control it, we have power over it.
But there are some aspects of our environment that we’ve never been able to control- winds, storms, lightning, thunder, rain, etc. Note how all of these phenomena occur ‘above’ us. Since we haven’t been able to control many forces of nature above us, we’ve associated height with power.
What is above us, therefore, is far more powerful than us. The sky is our master, our Lord. The gods reside in it. This is how we came to unconsciously associate height with power.
|Swivel chairs give a person more freedom of movement, hence more control and more power. More power = higher status|
In any public function, the most important people sit in the front on couches or sofas while the others, the common folk sit on ordinary chairs. The kings, high priests, and popes all sit on raised couches or chairs, highly decorated to reflect their high status.
Imagine how weird it would be if a judge in the courtroom, the ‘Lord’, the ‘Your Honour’, sat at a level below the suspects, witnesses, lawyers, and the audience. No one would take his statements seriously, perhaps not even his death sentences.
Being calm and composed, not revealing your feelings adds an aura of wisdom and maturity around you.