Epitaph on the World

Henry David Thoreau, Image by WikipediaEpitaph on the World by Henry David Thoreau

Here lies the body of this world,
Whose soul alas to hell is hurled.
This golden youth long since was past,
Its silver manhood went as fast,
An iron age drew on at last;
‘Tis vain its character to tell,
The several fates which it befell,
What year it died, when ’twill arise,
We only know that here it lies.

Are we really powerless in relation to those things in our communities, in our country and in the world that cause despair, disgust and woe? Or do we yet have a voice? Thoreau declared the death of the soul of the world we inhabit, yet I have to believe that deep in the heart of man is a glowing ember of conviction that life can, and should be better.

I’m often astonished by how quickly change occurs in the human experience. What was hardly imaginable just months ago can become the new normal in the blink of an eye, even without cataclysmic change!

The human being is an extremely adaptable creature. At the same time, we human beings are creatures of habit. The status quo is malleable concept, not one that is set in stone. What is new, especially in American culture, can become the new norm with little ado.

Warren G. Harding, Image by WikipediaWarren G. Harding‘s campaign promise when he ran for President in 1920 was for “a return to normalcy” (i.e. a return to life the way it was before World War I). I’ve wondered throughout my life what “normal” really is. Is there an original “normal” from which we’ve strayed in the course of human history?

We like to think that we’ve evolved form our humble beginnings as primates, yet I have to hold out for the possibility, at least, that the theory (and it is just that) could be faulty. I would be remiss from a scientific standpoint were I to fail to leave room for other explanations, until the matter is resolved conclusively. There is evidence scattered about the earth – things that make you say “hmmmm?” – that doesn’t fit within the tidy theories that have their roots in another theory, that of uniformitarianism.

Solon, Image by WikipediaSignificant evidence suggests that there were mighty and advanced civilizations on earth that were lost due to cataclysmic events. According to Plato’s dialogues “Timaeus and Critias, the Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet, Solon (638-558 B.C.), visited Neith’s temple at Sais and received from the resident priests an account of a forgotten ancient civilization.

Then there are massive structures around the earth, the Great Pyramid in Egypt, for instance, that has been described by modern architects and builders as being impossible to build using today’s technology. Built to exacting standards that far surpass and building parameters we use today, it is hard to imagine how a bunch of slaves could have managed their construction so long ago. Part of me has to wonder if there is more to the story…

At any rate, Thoreau laments the loss of the “soul” of our world in his poem. I too feel a certain sadness when I stop to consider the general condition of our world, of humanity and of the future. I cannot help but ask myself, “is this the best that we as human beings can do?”

No matter how far we think we’ve come, I hesitate to resign myself to the explanations that are so far given in both religious and scientific circles for who we are, why we’re here and from whence we’ve come.

What about you? Have you stopped to consider whether you have deliberately or perhaps just by default given up on the world? Say it isn’t so!

10 thoughts on “Epitaph on the World

  1. Doug

    I am always humbled by the processes that can make things change. Sometimes a very small action can bring about an enormous or even complete change. Simple things like the proportion of yeast to flour that makes bread rise or Homeopathic principles, medications, nuclear power, there are so many examples. I think there are many ways that could bring unimaginable change in the world. Your example of the ember is a perfect analogy. I think each person is a spark yet most burn out before they even realize the potential they have to create change. I say it isn’t so, let’s keep up the conversation. Maybe this is where it starts, thanks.


  2. Lady Leo

    I believe all is not lost and that is the reason I seek out information, exchanges, relationships and blogs such as this. One person can make a HUGE difference, we have lots of history to prove that point. I guess the challenge is as individuals will we take personal responsibility for what lands on our door step to put into action what we’ve learned. We each are given a life and therefore a chance to help fan that ember.


  3. RJ

    There have been many books written about a “golden age” of man that was lost to history. This theory exerts that the people of that time possessed skills and knowledge beyond our current capabilities. For those interested, you might consider The Lost Continent of Mu by James Churchward.


  4. E.C.

    “Is this the best that human beings can do?” In the context of this post there is no way I can point the finger at “human beings” separate from myself. You present and eye opening post this morning – thanks for the wake up call!


  5. Colin

    I agree with you that none of the explanations people give about our origins seem airtight, religious or scientific. There is much evidence that there were advanced societies before our own, but it is interesting how quickly even the researched gets buried, is never discussed, and the discoverer is written off as crazy. As for the soul of the world, I think it is amazing how fire can be coaxed from the smallest ember imaginable by a gifted fire-maker. All is not lost! Thanks for the great post, as always.


  6. Candy

    I think the Earth is like Tinkerbell, if you believe, she will fly. The problem is no one believes long enough to make a difference. If we all really believe She can come back to the state of the mother she is, then our actions and blessings can save her soul.


  7. Mary

    As people see themselves as only individually responsible for what is their’s, the world has little chance of being whole again. I think the answer is within all of us should we decide to care outside our boundaries what happens and do something in forward motion. If enough people move forward with The World as a cause, after awhile things would have to change.


  8. Isabelle Kearney

    Although the world can sometimes seem to be “lost” or beyond repair, especially when you watch the news, read history or see how people treat eachother. But, if you’re not looking with jaded eyes, what you see instead is a condition on our planet that just needs help, needs us, needs people who care enough about eachother and our global home to make some changes in their own lives.

    Your blog is full of starting points for change and I appreciate that you always offer your readers an invitation to look at the big picture.


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