A Thing Of Beauty.

Some time when I was a kid I heard that Michelangelo’s David was slowly crumbling because of rising air pollution and I thought, oh great, I hope I at least get to see it before it’s gone. And it also had a profound impact on me because it was the first time I realized that great monuments and works of art, even if they’re built to last, will eventually disappear. John Keats said “a thing of beauty is a joy forever,” but then he died at the age of twenty-five. Only one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world, at least on the generally accepted list, still stands, and even the pyramids will eventually be dust. Going back even farther, to a story told before the pyramids, the epic hero Gilgamesh goes on a quest for immortality, but is told—ironically by an immortal man—that everything is ephemeral. The mighty walls he’s built around his city, and the city itself, have disappeared.

So naturally I was intrigued when I saw this on a lamppost:

 As you can see in the closeup it’s an ouroboros, a symbol of neverending recurrence, and instead of being circular it’s cleverly twisted into an infinity symbol.

It’s just a piece of paper stuck to a metal post, not really made to last and already showing signs of wear, but the interesting thing is I took the pictures a couple of weeks ago and it’s still there, although watching it gradually disappear is oddly beautiful.

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  1. Gilly Maddison

    Everything crumbles and becomes something else in the end – even us. We have all been a billion different things since the dawn of time because as far as I know (and that’s not too far because I am not a scientist) no elements ever leave this planet but are constantly broken down to become parts of other things, animate and inanimate. Crumbling doesn’t bother me, which is quite useful at 61.:-)

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      As Carl Sagan pointed out we are all star stuff, and while this planet does get bombarded regularly Earth doesn’t seem to be sending as much back out into the solar system. Well, if you count the various probes and devices we’ve been launching for about a half century quite a bit has left this planet. At the moment there are approximately 49 kilos of plutonium, an element that doesn’t normally occur naturally except under very rare circumstances, orbiting Saturn. I can’t think of a better reminder of just how transient everything is than the universe we live in which, someday, will simply fade out of existence.

  2. Ann Koplow

    This post is not ephemeral, Chris. Pardon me while I gradually disappear.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      You’ve made me feel like the Cheshire Cat. The rest of me fades away while my smile remains.


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