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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Pyramid Musing

Pyramid Musing

The other day I was sitting at the foot of an old Mayan pyramid at Lamanai and pondered the visual paradox towering in front of my eyes. On the one hand, the unapologetically exhaling jungle, a walk-in sponge flaunting its life giving moisture. On the other hand, the unresponsive ruins of a long abandoned polis sulking redundantly in dry contrast. As I scanned the weathered stones put together by a culture long expired I could not help marveling at how transient great civilizations and empires really are.

Much like individual humans, civilizations grow, blossom, peak, decline and become extinct. Except they do so on a much longer time scale. Just like people's life expectancy is larger than that of their building blocks, individual cells, the lifespan of a civilization exceeds that of its constituents, individual people. But it is not infinite. Mayans, Incas and Aztecs are no longer with us. And neither are Ottoman, Persian or Roman empires. Their fate shows that some humbleness is in order. We tend to think that our own society is immortal, but it is not. It's just that our perception operates on a scale which makes it seem so. In reality, generations after generations, whole societies wither slowly away into complete oblivion.

I imagine that 500 years from now someone will be sitting at the ruins of the Yankee stadium in New York and contemplate the fate of the Western civilization. And they will undoubtedly wonder what went wrong. How did we end up crashing through the guard rails of commonsense and subjecting our social vehicle to the voracious pull of selfish gravity? An endless parade of questions will tumble across the snaggletoothed bleachers of the once mighty ballpark. Why did we let sports degenerate from a gentlemanly engagement to a farce of astronomical salaries and self-centered personalities? Was a massive drug overdose the best option for our health care system? At what point did celebrity voyeurism replace honest news reporting? Who let unproductive bureaucracy stifle the previously vibrant economies? How did political campaigns degenerate into bouts of prohibitively expensive mudslinging with hamburgers and cheap sound bites flying in all directions? Did we really believe that pyramid schemes of piling debt onto more debt could last forever? And most importantly, how come we were witnessing all of this in real time and still thought it was of no consequence? I think that future visitors of the early 21st century ruins will have their musings cut out for them with a glistening XXL sized machete.

Civilization clearly come and go. No matter how prosperous and eternal they seem, they always do. One millennium they are here, weaving their wicker baskets and erecting their magnificent temples, and the next one - poof! Fortunately, they do not take their accumulated knowledge and expertise with them. New societies emerge in their stead and pick up where the previous ones left off. They rectify old mistakes and start making new ones. Mayans are no longer with us, but we still enjoy the fruits of their labor - their agriculture, astronomy, masonry or urban planning. And of course, to this very day, we all enjoy their most significant invention - the jewel of civil engineering without which no modern civilization could step up to the pedestal of enlightenment - the Stairmaster.



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