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.