Thursday, November 1

So What's The Deal With Old?

<- Click here
Here's a street in Pompeii. Old? Hmmmmm...

Suppose I sculpted two pigs out of marble. then suppose I wrapped one of them in plastic, stuck it into another marble, waterproof container, filled it full of those little non-biodegradable plastic peanuts used in packing, and sealed it tight. Then suppose I buried it. Two thousand years from now someone digs it up, opens the box, pulls away the plastic and looks at my pig.

Back to the other pig. Remember, I didn't do anything to protect it, just let the elements age that little cutie. Now, should the digger-upper be able to compare that unboxed, unwrapped piggy... with its twin: which would be older? Which would seem older?

"What difference does it make... the "seem" thing, Ted?"

Glad you asked that. Pompeii was packed in pumice. Some parts of it look about as old as the ruins of the Bayan Plantation's mansion in Hilton Head, South Carolina. They've been crumbling for about a century and a half. I could post a picture of them which looks every bit as old as this Pompeii street. Maybe older.

So, what's old got to do with it? What is the fascination with Pompeii?

"Well gosh Ted, it's like a telephone connection back 2000 years."

And your point is? I mean, what is the romance that surrounds the merely old? Do we need it to invent stories like this one I told a while back?

Why are we surprised that people who were biologically identical to us were able to build streets, walls and doorways? Of course I felt a certain reverential awe on that street in Pompeii. But the stark juxtaposition of this radiant modern sign against the walls which time and pumice scoured almost free of color caught my attention more dramatically than the street itself.

So... what is the lure of things that seem old? How do they speak so grippingly to the human condition that we stare... the same way we stare at zoo animals? Is that it? Are Pompeii and the battlefield at say Gettysburg sort of like giraffes that we can visit? Or is it the people who we imagine walking down this street who are really the giraffes?

Perhaps it's amazement that attracts us to old things. Are we amazed that they left buildings which look so much like things we can build, or are we amazed that they stopped building them? Or do we sense that there are answers here to questions we find hard to ask?

Fact is the Roman Civilization failed. We have rebuilt their burnt out culture. Have we done a more permanent job? Or will our ghosts be someone else's giraffes or scuplted piggies in a time long long to come, and far far away?


GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, 10/03/07:5:14 pm: Lens 17-85mm, Focal Length: 26mm, Exp 1/60%5.6, ISO 200, Metering Mode: average, Expoure bias 0, Camera RAW

NOTE: You will often find in-depth descriptions of this Italian visit among the comments-section below both as I add onto them and as you prompt my memory. I'll try to restrict my thoughts exclusively to today's image here on the home page and enlarge upon them in the comments attachments to a day’s posting as the discussions unravel. Those comments begin here. To follow the thread chronologically start at October 7th.


advman said...

Roman Civilization ... failed? Roman Civilization did NOT fail!! Of course it did not. What regards architecture, military and civil organization, it may have lain dormant in Rome for some centuries, but of course it did not fail.

Roman culture was perfectly assimilated by the Christian Church and vice versa. That began immediately after the recognition of the Christians by emperor Constantine, and since then there is an unbroken tradition. It is not by chance that the Catholic church calls itself the Holy Roman Church. They mean it.

But it's not only culture, philosophy and jurisdiction, no, the empire itself survived nominally for another 1000 years, although factually it was a bit shorter. It is hard to say when the Byzantine Empire (which was nothing but a continuation of the ancient Roman empire) began to cease to exist. Was it already 1071 in Mantzikert? Hardly, because what followed, was one of the culturally most fruitful periods of the empire. Myriokephalon in 1176? Much more likely. The catastrophe of 1204? Oh yes, sure, now all grandeur was gone, but, on the other hand, in the meantime Byzantine culture and architecture had been assimilated by the Arabs and Turks (actually long before) and then from after the fourth Crusade by the triumphant Venetians, and so it came back to Italy.

No, Roman Civilization did not fail. It migrated at times, back and forth, but we can always find it, at any time.


Ashley said...

amazing shot. it looks like a cgi.
check out my Travel Blog :)