Saturday, May 09, 2015


There’s something solemn in an estate sale or in wandering through the home someone left behind. Everything I look at represented time and choices in someone’s life. The choice and the investment of hours had some eternal consequences. This worn saw or travel souvenir is the relic of something that judgment day will call profound.

The promise in Isaiah 65:22 was that "My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands." Here that didn’t happen—the woman is gone but her things remain; it is backwards. We only imagine the fears and thrills in the blood that she knew; all we have left are like ghosts of her presence.

I wonder how much of that attitude comes from a sense that the person is in some way still around? If you think the person’s spirit remains behind, it is like a haunting—and people around the world hold haunted places in awe. If you think the person’s spirit is gone but that their existence meant something that you may one day discover, these are important relics. If you think the person’s spirit is gone and you’ll never know anything more, then what remains behind is free picking.

Things are a little different if these are your ancestors. That sewing machine of your grandmother’s sewed your Halloween vampire costume; these bits and pieces are part of your history.

But if they’re not. . .

The Chinese studied the culture of their ancestors, but it isn’t obvious that they invested time in recovering the history of other people. That seems to be a Western invention. I gather that Daesh was, at least in part, trying to drive up the cost of antiquities by its sledge-hammering and bulldozing, but the Taliban was quite serious about Bamiyan. I don’t know if they’d have cared as much if the West hadn’t cared so much. We wanted to, in a sense, resurrect their ancestors, and the Taliban (and to some extent Daesh) wanted to obliterate even the memory of them, to try to destroy the dead even further.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think this is true, about retaining versus destroying ancestors. In particular, destroying information about other people's ancestors is to put them into the land of rumor and dissociation.