Thursday, 11 June 2020

The Dead and the Famous

Sweeping gene survey reveals new facets of evolution
Everyone has one of these

How long do you think you will be remembered after your death? Will paeans be sung in 1,000 years' time about your intellectual prowess? Of course not, to think otherwise is simply ridiculous. The reality is that you will be remembered by your spouse, at least until she remarries, by your kids and if you live long enough, your grandkids. And that is that. Only those folk deemed 'famous', by dint of skill or luck will enter the history 'books' for the future enlightenment of our ancestors 1,000 hence. I fervently hope that the Karcrashians will not be part of remembered history- now, if they are, that would be a heinous twist of fate.

For mundane humanity, and to be honest, that is the vast majority of us, we can live in the minds of the living for no more than three generations. Future relatives may plot a name on a 'family tree' but they know nothing but the lists in dusty books or sterile databases- that is our legacy.

In the popular imagination, at least, there is a gaggle of folk that will be remembered forever- well until the human condition passes away. I confess I'm being parochial in my analysis. The folks mentioned here have a distinct Eurocentric flavour. For other cultures, the list may be different.  

Here is a collection of 'oldies' that will always be cherished although their mortal span was thousands of years in the past. Of course, Jesus, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Nero, Alexander the Great, Newton, Leibnitz, DaVinci, Galileo and Hannibal will continue to abide in their legacy and in the mind of man. This is obviously not an exhaustive list and there are others that would be very comfortable in this selective group. There is another point to make: most folk pondering these historical characters will have a very superficial knowledge about their lives. I suspect many would have a problem placing the above individuals in the correct century. And I stick by this principle even when it comes to the historical Jesus. Although to be fair, even dedicated scholars know very little when it comes to the historical Jesus. Kenneth Copeland, the American tele-evangelist and multi-millionaire seems to be blithely unaware of Jesus' core teachings and precepts.

Of course, a few names will linger in the minds of the specialists. Scipio Africanus has long slipped the mind of the common man. But the historian and the sophisticated warrior know his triumph, his tactics, and his ultimate downfall. Thus is the fate of the conqueror of Hannibal Barca.

As for the 20th century: certainly, a memory of Hitler and Stalin will resonate down the ages; perhaps Churchill in the Anglocentric world. In the world of science, Einstein will remain clear of the pack. I'm not so sure about Sigmund Freud. Add to the distinguished list according to temperament and will.

As we wander aimlessly about our boneyards we sometimes espy a large edifice and last resting place of some long-dead Victorian industrialist. It matters not that he lived as a dignitary in his home town of Tipton. One hundred and seventy years after death his bones are a moldering ruin very like the man's sepulchre itself. Time and entropy take all, in the end. Mayhap there is a street that bears his name. What fame is that? Life is ephemeral. Tis like a gossamer tossed by the wind once plucked by life's eddies, it soon disappears in the draft of oblivion (Flaxen being a pretentious, pompous git. Arse.).

Indeed, to be remembered is scant praise. It counts naught in the courts of the dead. They cannot bask in the guttering flicker of posthumous fame. The dead see nothing, feel nothing, and belong to the eternal realm of dreamless sleep. Let the dead be forgotten.

The Cemetery of All Saints, Nunhead - Edwards and Holmes Family ...
And this shall pass
They count as quite forgot;
They are as men who have existed not;
Theirs is a loss past loss of fitful breath;
It is the second death.

Thomas Hardy

1 comment:

  1. There is a darkness in my soul Oswald. Perhaps you would call it thanatos; perhaps you would call it 'lack of meds'. Anyway, the next post will not be so 'reflective', dark and dire.