Friday, May 30, 2008

Life after people

The Dufflepud recorded this while we were away on the boat earlier this week...
It considers a scenario in which humanity is suddenly obliterated from the face of the earth, and what impact that might have after 1 year, 10, 20, 100, 1000...
At first I was very impatient with the pronouncements
"One week after people, much of the world will become dark as electricity generating plants fall into disuse"
"After a year without people, plant life will begin to take over our cities"
"Big deal" I thought "Will it really matter - we're the only ones who would be affected by the absence of electricity, by the jungle encroaching on our cities, by the steady waterlogging of the London Underground"
Then I wondered...is that the completely pragmatic response of someone who can see that things are important only in terms of the species that created them?
or is it the ultimate selfishness? someone who sees their race at the centre of the universe, and cannot imagine that there is any value to anything if human values have ceased to operate?
I watched some more....
The clever digital imaging showed me London and New York overcome by rampant nature...I was unmoved.
It suggested that the sphynx and the pyramids might not survive as nature burgeoned unchecked.
I continued calm and untroubled.
Then, suddenly, the focus changed to the libraries of the world...and I realised that in this world without people, John's Gospel, Herbert, Shakespeare and even Bach would cease to have any meaning. To my surprise, this mattered HUGELY.
While I was completely matter of fact about wonderful architecture disappearing, the other artistic triumphs of the human mind seemed to have a far greater value .
I began speculating whether the deep truths that such works hold for me would become less real if there were no human beings to absorb and respond to them.
I began to think about all those questions about a tree falling in a forest where there is nobody to mark the fall. Suddenly, it mattered desperately that humanity should survive...simply to glory in the expression of beauty, to open the windows on to God that the arts offer.

I didn't make it to the end of the programme - my tv tolerance is distinctly limited -, but apparently the most likely thing to survive 1000 years after the human race has ceased to be is Mount Rushmore. Now, if anything were likely to bring down my grey hairs in sorrow to the grave...well, that might just do it!

2 comments:

Ruby said...

memento mori -- I suppose something different touches each of us. For me, the sight of someone's hands often calls forth an awareness of their fragility and mortality.

Songbird said...

There is so much that has value in how it is perceived, fascinating.