Lessons From…Ozymandias

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog (and why wouldn’t you, honestly), you’ve probably noticed a trend of discussing legacy, immortality, and achieving some sense of greatness/grandeur that surpasses one’s lifetime. It is still a thought and desire that haunts, but I wanted to examine another perspective this time around. What are the results of such a dogged pursuit of immortality and infamy? Amazingly, I think the best possible answer comes from the past classics of all places; the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

¬† “I MET a Traveler from an antique land,
Who said, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. 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!
No thing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

While the poem is pretty spectacular, there is something to be said for hearing it out loud by the right voice, so:

Although we foolish men try to create empires and totems and anything that will leave a mark on this Earth, everything we create will eventually crumble and turn to dust and ash and be retaken by the ground beneath us. Even though this knowledge should be deflating, I actually find it kind of inspiring. If everything we make is ultimately lost and forgotten by the ravages of time and nature, then the only thing that really matters is the act of creation.

After all, it is through the process that the transfer of knowledge, the evolution of art, and the growth of self actually occurs. And as much as my ego would love to be remembered long past my eventual demise, I also want to be worthy of that possibility, and that is not currently truth.

Besides, none of the past greats were trying to gain immortality; they were simply pursuing their art and passion. Acclaim was a happy accident. Maybe it will be one I am lucky to find as well. In the meantime, I will keep creating and pursuing perfection and be content in the process and where I finally land.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

On Culture, Ethics, & Responsibility

Had an interesting conversation with friends over the weekend. While discussion topics were ranged and scattered, there was one point in particular that managed to draw out some tangents. We came onto the subject of cultural genocide of the Native populations of North America by European settlers. Look your conversations would get weird around two in the morning too if influenced by Scotch, cigars, and cheap pizza.

The central argument/discussion point revolved around whether or not the deaths and atrocities of Native populations were defensible considering the eventual outcome. After all, the technological and social advances made by civilizations and societies cannot fully be divorced from the negative things they did in order to acquire the resources needed for advancement.

Obviously, these points and arguments are completely theoretical since we cannot go back and alter history, but the talk veered into modern examples like the disenfranchisement of foreign populations to serve our luxuries, the massive use of fossil fuels and natural resources causing climate change, etc. etc. Most would state a singular position and argue from there, but few situations are ever so simplistically black and white.

Yes, big box corporations hire foreign populations at discounted rates, but if they were not present there would not really be an economy to speak of in those regions. Yes, we burn immense amounts of coal on a daily basis, but do you want to go without cheap and more affordable electricity to power your life? These are unfortunate conversations we are going to keep having and will have to come to some sort of consensus because there will probably be a series of tipping points upcoming soon.

There was one example that came to mind that was not brought up during this discussion. Our medical technology is advancing exponentially to the point that we may someday be able to cure several ailments. Currently, there is an entire culture and community that rose from the needs of d/D/Hoh individuals. They have their own language, history, and, basically, culture. Now, assuming we could figure out a way to completely cure deafness and hard of hearing (and not the Cochlear implant thing that mildly adds some hearing back maybe), are we morally/ethically obligated to do so? Even if it results in cultural genocide, essentially?

I don’t have an answer. I really don’t. Frankly, it has been in the back of my head for the last 48 hours and I still have no clue what the correct answer would be. Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject below in the comments.