Pondering the Value of Life vs. Legacy

Some two years ago, I watched a video of some men taking sledgehammers to statues built by workers who were dust and forgotten millennia ago.  My first thought: These people need to be stopped.  My second thought: These souless people need tKellsFol292rIncipJohno be put down lest they destroy anything else.  And  my third thought: Why am I getting worked up over some statues and tablets when people are being slaughtered?  Good point.  Of course, I have been getting incensed at the executions, the torture, all the brutality done in the name of some version of God or another.  So then I ask myself how one hold the loss of an artifact and the loss of a human life as in any way equal in tragic value.

Here is what I came to.  Each unique human life is of immense importance so long as it continues. Life is finite, and when it ends, it’s gone.  Some lives leave a legacy.  This may be found in children, friends, or students that the person affected during life.  When a person has gone beyond memory, there are physical objects – objects of art, things crafted – a book, a bridge, a violin, a vase, a map – these are relics of legacy.  Time first steals our memory, then works to destroy other legacies.  Libraries burn; buildings decay or are torn down; moth and rust and misfortune tear away the heirlooms of the dead –the inheritance of the future.  Age and rarity makes these relics more valuable.  A paperback may be so worthless as to end up in the free book bin after one read.  But what is the worth of the first run of Walden? Or a book printed by Gutenberg?  Or an Anglo-Saxon letters scribbled on a scrap of velum?  Or lead sheets with Roman lettering, or Demotic on papyrus, or cuneiform on accidently-baked clay?  What about paintings on a cave wall?

Such things, the legacies of the forgotten generations, are truly humanity’s heirlooms, and as valuable in their way as the more direct and tangible wealth of today – land, water, and so on.  Both the present lives and those legacies of past lives must be defended from those who see the value in neither.Vallon_Pont_d'Arc_banner

Images from Wikipedia Commons

One thought on “Pondering the Value of Life vs. Legacy”

  1. I, for one, love old stuff…stuff worthy (however that be decided) of being saved…things that have changed us as a people or marked a change in us. Once these are gone, how will we perceive our place in the World? It’s been said that we stand on the shoulders of giants.
    If we don’t know of the shoulders that we stand upon, how will we be able to stand at all?

    I’m talking about old moldy paintings, crumbling buildings, and the like. But, let’s give it a modern twist….computers, cell phones, and apps that our misguided youth pray to everyday. Many modern wee-people just believe that these have always been here, and for them, they have. But, obviously, years and years of developmental work by modern pillars of our society have brought us to this point of technology. Now let’s say that all history of their labors and insights were suddenly replaced on the World’s databases by a well meaning i-librarian looking for space to store the latest high scores in Candy Crush 5000. Everything seems fine for a while, until the palladium supply runs out, making the current version of computing impossible to manufacture. So when the supply of iPhones finally dwindles a century later, how will we come up with a new palladium-free computer chip? If we had preserved our techno-past, we might stand a chance of looking back, and reinventing the wheel.
    If you doubt me, watch the fine documentary entitled, “Idiocracy”. ha! ….forget your past, and live in a world of strip malls and fast-food swamps.

    And as to the question of losing people…we can always make more.
    Todd B


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