As I walk in nature, I often come across an abandoned camp site or a pile of stacked stones and I think about the people who had been there before me and left traces behind from their visit. Granted, the hiking trail is a constant reminder of years of use and people leaving impressions behind and I am aware of this too.I heard someone talk about the story and adventures of Gilgamesh the other day
Readers may know that mythology is an interest of mine as well as lost civilizations. There are so many traces of civilizations that have fallen, disappeared and been rediscovered, that last week alone saw at least three major discoveries of the ancient world. Tombs. Temples. Caverns. While some people go out and shout “Ancient aliens must have built these things!” I personally believe we are smart, creative and tenacious enough to do some pretty amazing things on our own.
How Long Does It Take to Lose a Civilization?
I was fascinated by a show called Life After People, a few years back, that explored how our modern civilization would fair over 10,000 years if we all vanished. To see a major collapse of buildings and bridges after two hundred years was stunning. To see how many things vanished over 2,000 was amazing. And to see how only the largest structures would still be seen after 10,000 was humbling. Nothing, save the Hoover dam, the great wall of China and the Pyramids would be recognizable. Nature is pretty persistent.
Recently, I heard someone talk about the story and adventures of Gilgamesh. They said that Gilgamesh was searching for immortality, although I haven’t been able to confirm this. The speaker was saying how that he ended up achieving a kind of immortality as his story has been passed down for thousands of years and continues on today. Gilgamesh, according to an entry in Wikipedia, was an actual historic figure as a king of Uruk, Mesopotamia, around 2800 and 2500 BC. But he is also the main character (two-thirds god and one-third human) in a Mesopotamian poem titled the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is considered the first great work of literature.
We are constantly finding more ancient sites ranging back 11,000-12,000 years or more. We were supposed to be simple farmers and nomads, but archeologists are finding full ruins buried beneath sand and dirt. Golbekli Tepe is one such site. More are being found in Peru and across the globe.
Geologist Dr. Robert Schoch (mentioned often on this blog), dated the Sphinx at 10,000+ years. A striking contradiction to the 4-5,000 years that Egyptian historians stick to as it’s age.
But why does it matter what we leave behind?
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
~ Pericles (495 BC-429 BC)
As I approach a half-century mark in years, I think about what I’m leaving behind. For a while, people were trying to convince me that we shouldn’t leave anything behind. Zero Carbon Footprint was a movement going around. It honestly pissed me off. I was born here and have a right to live. And while I tried to build more than destroy, the movement was almost saying that I shouldn’t exist because I was destroying the Earth. I have calmed down. I understand the goal. But I refuse to shrink.
Why does it matter so much about what we leave behind? For me, it’s easy. While the Ancient Greeks would ask about someone who passed away the question “Did they live with passion?” I think what I wonder most about is, “Did I make a difference?”
That is probably the biggest thing I think about looking back on my days is “Did I matter?” In the grand scheme of things, did my existence help, hinder or do nothing for our planet and the universe?
Now, many readers may say, “Huber, you’ve got many many years to go! Why so glum?”
Luckily, I am not glum at all. Rather, I want to consider that the next half of my life (should I be so luckily) is even better and more meaningful than what has come before.
Words, actions, and how you affect the world around you by your actions seem to last much longer than buildings (with a few exceptions from antiquity). I have discovered that I have helped many people in my life and didn’t even know it. I remember when I was growing up, unsure about my place in the universe or what God might have in store for me, I would often say, “God, I know you put me here for a reason that may not be anything more than to help someone across the street some day in the future, but would it be okay if I could stay around a little longer afterwards and explore and play?”
I’m not sure if I’ve done what I’ve come here to do yet. I have some new ideas. In the long run, whether we only leave behind footprints in the sand that are washed away by the tides of time or we create or inspire epics of song, story or poetry to be written that echo through millennia, we should share our gifts with others. Whatever talent, love or passion you have, do that as much as you can and you will end up weaving your essence into the lives of others and ripple outward and forward in time.