We skim off the cream of life when we mold the heroes of our past into the load-bearing members of our collective history we require them to be. The myths of our era are formed, not from looking about nature and personifying the sun in the being of a firey-haired demon, but rather in taking those imperfect people who have done something noteworthy and stripping away their humanity until our memories of them are austere as a marble statue. We make them larger than life, but in so doing undermine the accomplishments they've made - we take those of modern science and, like Achilles, construe them to be demigods of physical understanding who could not help but create heavy water or solve quantum electrodynamics. We take away the agonizing and false paths which lead to great works of literature - we're willing to hail the achievement of a great play, while the magazine columns which paid for the paper upon which it was written fade into obscurity.
Partially this is necessary - were we to teach the whole life's story of Newton every time an innovation of his was taught in a college optics class, we would hardly scale our way past Snell's law so great would be the mountain of accumulated knowledge. Yet I believe this goes deeper than that. At our core, each person wishes to be great, yet we have a number of fail safes inherant in our ability to think and reason which keep us from ever really understanding the insignificance of most lives. This is one such system to save us from ourselves. It's easy to concede that your life amounts to nothing while another's will amount to a great deal if you believe that each person is either destined by virtue of their surpassing intellect and unmitigated ability to the ceiling of human achievement, or fated to live out what is ultimately a flash on the periphery of historical record.
The responsability of free will is something we, and here I use "we" as the gestalt, simply do not want to really ever accept.
cranked out at 4:37 AM | |
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