Science Writing

Futility

This is going to be a stream of consciousness post; take it all with a grain of salt.

I was watching a sports talk show the other night. Four people sat around and chatted about the same things they do every week; who was winning, who was losing and the why behind both.

They laughed and joked, and in general looked like they were having a great time doing something that they clearly enjoyed.

I watched and an intrusive thought penetrated my mind; these four people will die one day and on their death beds, this will be their legacy. Will they be happy? In one thousand years time, when they and everything and everyone they know has disappeared, will this sport talk show be remembered?

No, it won’t be.

This got me thinking about the many people in the history of Earth that have passed away. I’ll stick to Homo Sapiens Sapiens here, as it’s easier to get my own head around.

I don’t know how many people died building the Great Pyramids of Giza. I do know that they were built in the service of the Pharaoh-God Khufu. At his command, thousands upon thousands of people toiled, either in the bonds of slavery or not, for the vision of one man.

He is remembered. The Pyramids of Giza are recognised all over the world as one of the greatest achievements of human-kind.

But the people who built it. The ones who dedicated their lives- willingly or not – to have this man remembered for thousands of years, they have been forgotten. Their families have been forgotten, their children, their friends. Everything. They survive in fragments dug up by archeologists; a tax receipt here, a letter there. Miniscule snapshots into lives that would have been as complicated and nuanced as our own.

They spent their lives, fifty, forty, eighty years – however long it was – toiling for the glory of someone else.

And they have been forgotten.

We will be too, one day.

Time will win out and dust will cover us, and our civilizations that seem so prosperous and eternal in the moment will be ground to nothing and then built over years later.

What’s the point?

The people on the sports talk show certainly seem happy. They have families they go home too, they love and they laugh. Is that enough?

On their death beds will they be thinking about the futility of it all? The fact they won’t be remembered in one hundred years time. Or will they be thinking about their family and friends? The fun that they had and the life that they led?

I hope for them it is the latter.

Think about what you’re doing every day. Is it what you want to do? Will you look back on your life and remember being happy and fulfilled?

Or will you look back on your life and see nothing but wasted hours, and futile attempts to find meaning?

I hope for you it is the former.

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