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.

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On Legacy

Why do we fear death? Or is it something else we truly fear: being forgotten and left behind? To be honest, I am okay with death. Hell, it’s inevitable. We all die, so why fear that certainty. No, my fear, and I suspect many others’, is being a blip in the grand play of humanity. Not even a footnote, just nothing.

For most people, their family and children will be the way their name continues in some form. For others, it will be their business ties or something else involving their work. That is fine. It’s expected.

But I guess I am just a little bit selfish. I want more than that. I want my name to last past my life, past my children’s lives, past several generations. I want to still be remembered long after my progeny is dead.

I just have to figure out how to do it. And if it is worth the effort. I hope so because gods know that I will sacrifice a lot to get there.

Lessons From…Gotham (SE3 “The Last Laugh”)

Admittedly, season one of the Gotham series was a bit lackluster for me. It just didn’t seem to really know what it wanted to be and was basically all over the place. Frankly, I wasn’t sure that I was going to keep up with the show, but I am a Batman fan, so slap that bat logo on something and I will watch. Season two seems to be more concise and sure of itself. It is still far too early to tell if it is actually a good show, but so far it appears to be better than its previous season. Part of this improvement, in my humble opinion, has to do with upping the insanity and quality of the villains. There were several prominent villainous figures up to the third episode of the current season, “The Last Laugh,” and the emerging villains and few heroes all share one common element which is the focus of this post. As always SPOILERS ahead.

The episode centered on the next phase of Theo Galavan’s, the newest big bad of Gotham, master plan for controlling the city of Gotham. After breaking free six demented psychopaths from Arkham Asylum and allowing them free reign and destruction to their black hearts’ content. He has already lost a few of his make shift crew, but the plan keeps chugging along with the de facto leader of the self prescribed and named MANIAX, Jerome Valeska (Gotham‘s proto-Joker) taking center stage of a hostage situation. All the key players of Gotham end up involved: Jim Gordon, Jerome, Bruce Wayne, and Theo Galvan. The ultimate result is expected and, honestly, not entirely necessary because the real meaning is what happens after the hostage situation is resolved and what these four central figures have in common; legacy.

Basic Oedipus rule: You want to achieve greatness, kill your dad.

Basic Oedipus rule: You want to achieve greatness, kill your dad.

Jerome wants to be famous. He wants Gotham, and the world, to know his name and to fear him. He will do anything and everything to achieve this singular goal. Jerome breaks into Gotham Police’s Headquarters and kills the commissioner along with several officers. He murders his own father in cold blood to further Galvan’s agenda. And he has no issue with killing an innocent child, Bruce Wayne, simply because of boredom and orders. Jerome is insane, but he basically wants to leave a legacy behind him. He wants to be remembered beyond his years so that generations say his name. And according to the episode’s end, his wish may actually be granted. He is not the only one who is concerned with how history will remember him.

Theo Galvan believes that the city and citizens of Gotham have done him and his family a great disservice and insult. His family, according to him, built Gotham, yet they have no recognition for their efforts. Galvan feels that his family should stand alongside the great families of Gotham like the Waynes and Keans. Like Jerome, Theo has no qualms about getting his hands dirty to achieve his family’s redemption and secure his own legacy as savior, protector, and creator of Gotham. Hell, he broke out crazy murderers and is responsible for the capture, detainment, and murder of several prominent political and social leaders. Galvan’s want his name to be in the minds and memories of Gotham’s citizens forever. He wants to etch his name into its skyline alongside Wayne. Really, he wants to eradicate every other prominent family and rise above them. It is the only thing that matters to him. The world can crumble as long as he gets to stand on the ashes, or at the very least his name is whispered and revered by the survivors.

Yup that's the face of comic book villain. I can just here him monologuing...

Yup that’s the face of comic book villain. I can just here him monologuing…

James “Jim” Gordon is the only police respondent to the hostage situation orchestrated by Theo and Jerome. He is also, at this point, the only positive force in the Gotham Police. Gordon is a former soldier who just wants to do a good job and have a positive impact on his city. He (in this continuity) was born and raised in Gotham and believes that it can be a great and safe city again. This is his driving mission. He will risk his life, love, safety, and sanity to make his vision of a safe and thriving Gotham a reality.

These three individuals all have different, and at times conflicting, but interconnected goals. Most of all, they are simply concerned with their individual legacies. One wants infamy, one wants power, and one wants salvation, but all want nothing more than to leave something behind that masses will remember.  However, the world and path they walk is not a secure one and will most likely end in death, so like all great individuals they need to create a legacy that will survive them. It is the most any of us can hope for, but we also need to ensure that our legacies are worth remembering. In this respect, James is the only one that can truly succeed because his vision is concerned with people while Galvan’s and Jerome’s are concerned with buildings and fear. People will always live on and through them it will be how we continue on and perhaps achieve a sense of immortality and legacy.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

 

Lessons From…Marco Polo

So I binged on the Netflix series Marco Polo last Saturday. It was actually rather good. And is probably the only American series I can name in which there are more non-white characters/actors than white ones. This obviously is not necessary for a show to be good, but it is a nice change of pace from the usual. I highly recommend watching the series particularly for the next few lessons to fully make sense. As always SPOILERS ahead.

It is getting harder to come up with captions for this thing.

It is getting harder to come up with captions for this thing.

Alright, so the first thing that I wish to discuss is one of the core themes of the series which also serves as the perfect first lesson: Fear and Respect a man with an unshakable vision. There is nothing more dangerous or worthy. Obviously, the man that immediately comes to mind, assuming, you are familiar with the story of Marco Polo, is Kublai Khan. It makes sense. The Khan is a man with a clear vision; he will rule the world. It is his destiny. He is so devoted to his vision that he inspires those around him. His loyal court, Polo included, are so mesmerized by the Khan’s aspirations that they are willing to devote their lives in service to that dream. The mark of a true leader and visionary is found in the quality of followers he brings along with him..Considering the actions of his servant, Yusuf, Khan was a great leader.

Yup, the man is full of wisdom and is pretty good with a sword.

Yup, the man is full of wisdom and is pretty good with a sword.

At some point in the series, Yusuf, one of Kublai Khan’s trusted advisers and council, sacrifices himself and his honor for the sake of the empire and Khan’s vision. He basically takes the blame for an act of treason in order to ensure that Marco (who is also innocent of the crime) can aid his chosen leader. Yusuf knows the consequences of his actions and still chooses the path of self-destruction for the glory of his Khan. Khan also was fully aware of Yusuf’s innocence and understood why Yusuf was acting in the manner he was. In a sense, both men committed ultimate sacrifices in service to a grander vision; Yusuf his life and Kublai one of the few men he could call friend. This brings us to the next lesson: All advances require sacrifice. Be mindful of that and willing to let go.

There is one final lesson to be derived from this stellar show: There is power in the creation of a legacy and legend. The world knows the names of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. They will live for ages beyond their deaths and their adventures influenced the history of the world. Both these men had certain perspectives and ideas about themselves which drove them to the great heights of success, with a few depths of failures to add to it. They wanted to change the world and to make sure that they left a mark after their demise.

Such men and events lead one to question the possible existence of destiny and fate and begin to spout nonsense of similar sorts. This are simply the invention of the witnesses who cannot understand how any one man could do the extraordinary actions they saw. History has been written by those arrogant enough to think they can be its author and foolish enough to actually try.

Thus endeth today’s lesson. Also go watch Marco Polo. It’s all on Netflix.

On Timeliness

Earlier this week I blogged about a video and how there appeared to be a level of timing around said media. The full post can be found here but the topic was only partially discussed. Obviously, it is still bugging me to an uncertain extent.

Basically the root of my problem or question is simply what makes a piece of art, in whatever medium, a timeless classic instead of a work of its time? I am not referring to what differentiates between a “good” or “bad” piece of media. That is far too subjective that there is disagreement among the experts whose profession it is to decide such things. No, I mean what is the difference between a song like “Hey Jude” and “La Macarena”? After all, one is considered a timeless piece that many still look to test themselves and enjoy and the other was a flash in the pan that was immensely popular for a brief moment in time.

Same thing for paintings, portraits, movies, television, an so on and so forth. So why are some going to stand the test of time and others relegated to the status of one hit wonders? Is it the quality? Popularity? Personal choice? Are there current pieces of art that we think people will engage with 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now?

I don’t really have any answers for this. I was kind of hoping y’all might. So denizens of the Internet/Wordpress what makes a work of art a potential timeless classic? Please, post below; I want to read what you think.