Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We are they

This beautiful National Geographic article reminded me of something I've been thinking about for quite a while. The article is about how an archeological find in the Sahara confirms theories about certain groups of people who lived there when it was more temperate, several thousand years ago.

The image that struck me was of the Stone Age Embrace, a grave containing (presumably) a mother and two children with hands interlaced. This arrangement of bodies touches me deeply, because it shows that people who lived thousands of years ago may not have been so different from us today. When I think of the people who lived in ancient Egypt, or Sumeria, or medieval Europe, or prehistoric North America, I often wonder about the nameless masses of people who lived and died without leaving a trace of their existence. We know almost nothing about any specific person who may have lived and died so long ago.

But they were like us. They loved each other. They loved their children. They were afraid of the dark. The sun gave them light, and the earth gave them water. They looked up at the same stars we see. They wondered about the meaning of life, and their place in it. They mourned the deaths of those they loved. They were afraid to die, and they wanted to be remembered. Now I'm projecting a bit, but I like to think that these things are true. And the Stone Age Embrace makes me think that I'm not too far off. I think they loved their lives just as much as we love our own. And one day in the not-too-distant future, we will become them.

I often try to look at life and existence from many different angles. It helps me to understand and appreciate my place in the universe. Here is one way of looking at it: We are now living in the past. Just as those who lived and died thousands of years ago are in our distant past, we are in the distant past of those to come. People will wonder who we really were, and what life was really like so many years ago, back in the 21st century. What will they think of us? How will they know who we were? Will they admire us for our achievements? Will they thank us for having made their world a better place? I hope so. And I hope they will find some of us buried in an Information Age Embrace.

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