Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time Well Spent

I don't know how other people blog, I only know how I do it.

Before anything else, I have to want to say something. Thirteen weeks at bootcamp was probably the longest period of my life to spend most of a day shutting up whether I wanted to or not, and while I've overcome that temporary impediment, I still struggle sometimes to figure out what it is that's wanting to get out. And obviously, some days are better for that than others.

Secondly, for me at least, it has to occupy my attention enough to stay around while I play with it, once when it bubbles up, again when I think about it, and finally when I finally clack it out here for public inspection.

Thirdly, it has to be worth saying, and this is the hardest of all. I want something topical enough not to be a story about Sanskrit archaeology, but timeless enough to spend my finite amount of time on the planet bothering with. I figure if it isn't worth my time, it's not worth yours either. Or vice versa, take your pick.

Today I keep thinking about something I saw a few years back. One of the usual parades of Egyptian artifacts was caravaning around the country, and was visiting a local museum, as was I. There were any number of artifacts and curiosities, but the one that stays with me, and that always will, wasn't Tutankhamun's great golden death mask, or some other richly detailed and bejeweled knick knacks, but was rather just a piece of wood not even a foot tall.

What it was, was quite simply one of the most lifelike representations of a typical Egyptian court beauty I think I've ever seen. She was standing, perfectly straight and proportioned, and appropriately covered with the prototypical pleated cotton skirt/shawl, plainly visible and draped over every bit of the perfect form underneath. It was a wooden carving so finely detailed, you could pick out that much. Each curve and feature from her hair to her feet was entirely the equal of a Michelangelo in marble from 3500 years afterwards.

And what struck me was that 4000 years or more ago, someone, probably a royal slave, on some given day had undertaken to carve, with the most basic hand tools, on a simple piece of mere wood with so much skill and grace, such that 40 centuries later it would not only survive, but end up where I would look at it and marvel at the skill, the detail, the honesty of the representation of a woman who would be dust itself long since, if not for the timeless and priceless representation of her standing now in a glass case a foot in front of me, thousands of miles and years from when she had walked the earth, no doubt gracefully, across smooth limestone floors in Pharoah's court centuries before the time of Moses. And that of all the things from so great and vast a civilization that had once existed, but long since perished in the march of the intervening centuries, such a small wooden statue had survived, and travelled so far from where it was made, to make such an impression, as if it had been done just yesterday.

When you see something like that, something so simple and basic, yet so purely well-executed you could reproduce an actual person from it, and have difficulty determining whether the model was the source of the sculpture, or whether it was the other way around, it changes your perspective on what you do every day, and how you spend your time.

I'm not there yet, with blogging or any number of other pursuits, so I can only keep working at it. But who knows which little thing we do on any given day may become just like that little wooden statue, long after we're gone?

And so I can only conclude that if each of us also keep at it, and just once in our lives, manages to produce something that stands the test of time as well as that small bit of Egyptian wood did from 2000 B.C., we would be doing very well indeed.

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