The ancient Romans thought they would live forever. Their city, Rome, was the eternal city. Its values were the pinnacle of civilization, its system was the envy of the earth, and all roads led to it.
Yet they’re gone. Whoosh! Dead and buried underneath ruins we visit on vacation for our amusement, or because we’re on a stupid school trip. The Romans are extinct. We honor their existence by ratifying their obliteration, and we ratify their obliteration by frequenting their civilization in ways that spell ‘mortal.’
The ancient Romans are extinct, and so are the ancient Spartans, the ancient Athenians, the Mayans, the Mings, not to mention every little tribe in the world. Every little band of people too insignificant and irrelevant to make it into the annals of history, gone, along with the great ones.
The difference between the little tribes of the world and the greater civilizations is that the greater civilizations left their mark. They made a difference in a direct and pronounced manner. They were aware of the impact they were having on their surroundings, seizing the opportunities presented to them.
They had the chance to reflect on their lives and make adjustments where possible.
They had the ability to project themselves in the future in a way that affected other people.
They had the opportunity to remain relevant.
Hence Rome isn’t totally dead. It lives on, in a manner of speaking, through Western civilization, which it helped spawn.
So does Ancient Greece, and so do the Mings, to each their own, through their respective offsrping.
The Mayans, on the other hand, didn’t do so well. Unable to withstand the onslaught of Western progress and disease that crashed on them like a tsunami, they vanished along with millions of others of their kind. Native Americans from north to south and coast to coast live on only as a vestige, a distant memory, a faded dream, a cautionary tale on the risks and perils of arrested development.
It’s not a pleasant tale, but it’s what life is made of: competition and change. Life is a cutthroat game, a cutting board where evolution’s blade slices up whatever falls in its hands. Who dares wins, who adapts endures, the rest fall and become nourishment, simple as that.
It’s not a pleasant argument. But it’s an accurate one, especially when history is taken into account.
Unnerved? Watch this space for more.
From the collection of writings EON: THE ANGRY COMING OF AGE