I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
-Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
Visit any ancient monumental site, whether it’s in Egypt,
or even ancient Greece,
and you’ll quickly realize many of these ancient kings, emperors and conquerors were megalomaniacs, building this statue or that temple, like in Shelley’s poem, trying to stake their tiny claim in the face of eternity.
Unfortunately, monuments, cities and buildings eventually fall into disrepair or ruin. Things like climate changes, wars and the march of time have a funny way of doing that. History is full of examples of civilizations or cities disappearing altogether, like in the case of the River Menderes silting up the plains and thus precipitating the ruin of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus, or an earthquake swallowing a city whole in the case of Antioch or even a city being abandoned completely because the Uzboy river dried up like the ancient Khwarezm civilization in Turkmenistan.
I will on occasion usually watch cheesy awards shows like the Oscars. The fanfare, the pre-awards shows where plastic hosts ooh’s and aah’s over the actresses (usually) gaudy gowns while acting like the actor or actress’ bit of acting work has somehow achieved world peace or cured cancer, and now the post-ceremony parties.
It shows up the worst of vulgar celebrity culture. I don’t care about the winners anymore since in my mind, the Oscars lost their credibility a long time ago (if you’re a serious film fan and want to know the movies worth watching, keep a close eye on the winners at the Cannes, Telluride, Berlin and Venice film festivals as well as the NYC and London Critics Circle Awards). It’s a popularity contest for those playing the Hollywood game and for insiders to come out and prance about like peacocks. Many people who go into film, and especially into acting or directing, I think are also striving for eternal immortality, maybe not in marble statues anymore like the old Greek gods and Roman emperors but definitely on celluloid. What is today’s winner quickly becomes yesterday’s trivia. (Think fast: Which film won “Best Picture” in 1974? Do you know? Do you care? Has it changed anything?)
Mikhael Aivanhov had a wonderful quote on eternity and permanence (which I’m still looking for) which I read years ago, that even if you strive for permanence on the material plane, that eventually it will fall into ruin, whether it’s a political ideology, an invention or a monument. That often, very quickly after you die, even after all the hard work you put in trying to achieve something permanent or immortal, if you have an airport, hospital, an elementary school or park named after you, given enough time, these too will vanish and be forgotten. That the only thing that lasts are ideas and the spiritual work you accomplish out of that wisdom. That stays alive forever. One only has to look at the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the benevolent teachings of Buddha, Lao Tzu and old JC, to see what impact their teachings and ideas have informed and transformed the world, in a good way, that even now, thousands of years later, their work and words remains alive and vital. (In light of this, when I see an aging train wreck like Madonna doing her best to remain youthful and striving for immortality, it just comes across as sad…and tragic)
“What about things such as illness, misery, ugliness? Are inferior things also limitless and capable of expanding all the way to Infinity? No, there is a limit to evil, proven in physics by the fact that heat rises from 0 degrees Celsius, to infinity, whereas cold cannot go lower than 273 degrees Celsius below. The frozen particles block each other and pile up; when movement stops, the limit has been reached. Heat does the contrary, it dilates and expands the body, stirs the particles into movement and pushes back the limits of space. Space is infinite, it cannot be limited. We believe ourselves limited because we have never tried to go beyond our own experience, we think we are limited in space but we are wrong: above there is no limit.That is what led me to the conclusion that evil is limited in both time and space. Cosmic Intelligence did not intend evil to endure. It did not endow it with lasting power as It did good: the power of good is unlimited. That is the difference between good and evil, the only real difference. People believe them to be equally strong but they are not. The forces of Evil are not equal to the forces of Good. Therefore, in electing to go toward the positive pole, you enter into the realm of unlimited time and space, Infinity and Eternity, Cosmic Intelligence Itself.”