One of my favorite poems is the one entitled Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley:
I am struck by the irony of the picture his words create – the pompous declaration of the king in the past contrasted with the reality visible in the present; the pathos of the empty vastness and the poignancy of the observation Nothing beside remains; the endless sands marking with finality the futility of perceived grandiosity and assumed greatness, while preserving the true nature of mankind mocking the tyrant in a subtle lasting way!
No other writing well portrays the fickleness of trying to leave a mark. No evidence better describes the vanity of doing something to inspire envy in the hearts of people fortunate enough to view a glory. No amount of power or wealth seems to be able to leave an impact on history inspite of efforts. No way to extend remembrance of existence in time and space even when possessing impressive grandeur.
We all do want to leave our mark in this world, in one way or another. People endow grants and prizes, carve their names and faces on rock and stone, work with tree and wood or paint and brush to create impression. We want to not only be remembered, but also make a dent on the fabric of this life to show our presence. How do we ensure that we do not end up like Ozymandias, with no trace of even in the very monuments he created in order to preserve his place in time.
What we strive to accomplish with the help of ambition, greed and selfishness are all swept away by the passage of time, worn out by the winds of change that are inevitable. What we pay attention to, give preference for, run after, slog for and pour ourselves out for, all become meaningless or redundant in the long run. What we value and pursue, giving our whole being to attaining, soon passes away into oblivion and forgetfulness. Rightly did King Solomon the Wise at the pinnacle of his glory declare: Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.
If this is all there is to life, what then is the use of work, toil, labor, striving and forbearance? Don’t we all want to be held in memory, remembered and not forgotten? How can we ensure perpetuity of existence and linger long in the minds of others? What is it that will help us etch our brand firmly on life and people?
As people, we are the best of creation, made to be eternal and everlasting. We have been given the unique trait to transcend from humanness and evanescence to godlikeness and permanence. There is an innate need within us to set in concrete terms that we were once alive and well. What is it therefore that helps us leave a fingerprint or footprint in time and space that cannot be erased or eroded away, giving expression to a need that throbs within us?
Life in general and all living things in particular get perpetuated by the proliferation and multiplication of their kind. The Creator has bestowed the ability to procreate within the body of every living kind, be it plant, animal or human. Each species on earth embodies a seed, which when planted in the right ground, brings forth fruit after its kind. Thus do all living things leave behind a generation that preserves its kind and type on earth.
Reproduction is the greatest blessing endowed on all living beings on earth, ensuring their kind has existential continuity!
Monuments may decay and die; Memories fade and flee;
Moths and insects erode and destroy;
Thieves steal and vandalize;
But a generation cannot be erased,
Nor a people totally annihilated.
That’s the mark we can create or help establish.
That’s the impression we can leave behind.
A progeny that will replicate and remember us;
A posterity that will carry on our name;
A people who will be living miniatures of ourselves,
Establishing and marking our past in their making of the present,
And impacting the future through their own
King Ozymandias would have done well to leave behind a host of people or his own sons and daughters to continue the good work he had done in his lifetime.
That is, if he had done good at all!