And They Shall Have No Memorial
Good Works will get us remembered, and anonymous good works may leave an unsung but very real legacy, proving that we did not live entirely in vain. And yet in the long run, all this will one day be as nothing, will be one with Nineveh and Tyre.
Suppose there was once a good man in ancient Babylon, who went round helping poor people; well, then, his beneficiaries are now nearly three thousand years dead, and in the same place as the poor people of Memphis, say, whom this benefactor did not visit.
The same applies to great works of art. How many ancient paintings, and vases, and poems have been destroyed before reaching our own time; and of those that did reach our own time, how many will fail to reach someone else’s time? All those that knew the works of art and loved them, are now dead or will some day be dead, whereupon that appreciation will no longer have any place in the universe in which to reside. Were we to grow so powerful as a species that we could sculpt the Moon as a great and moving work of art, well, one day the sun will become a red giant and swallow it up. Were some culture-loving aliens to come and admire it, well then, they themselves will surely some day fall victim to a supernova. At any rate, in the long run not only are we all dead, but anything we could possibly do to mark our existence, individually or collectively, will be destroyed.
There is thus no immortality in architecture, art, literature or anything of the sort, only an extended period of remembrance, not unlike the way in which the most banal villager is remembered by his village for a decade. If you buy into the Platonic assumption that only the permanent is valuable, you are out of luck. You are then condemned to contemptus mundi with no fictitious consolation.
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion And Conceptual Muddle