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Monuments occur in all shapes and sizes

Monuments occur in all shapes and sizes, and they memorialize everything from legendary people to great events and even eras. But they all have one thing in common: taken as a whole, monuments tell the story of mankind’s life on Earth. And that’s the beautiful thing about any individual monument: it connects the thing or person memorialized to all that has ever been in humanity.
Fortunately for historians and others interested in the anthropological roots of mankind’s earthly experiences, most monuments have always been constructed of long lasting materials (the kind that will remain standing for centuries, or even a millennium or more) such as granite or bronze. (It is likely that many monuments over the centuries were carved of not-so-long lasting materials -- such as is popular among today’s party planners who routinely commission statues made from wax or even ice -- but those are lost to the world, of course. Fortunately, great advances in photography in the last 100 years or so mean that even these types of monuments will never be lost. Even snow and sand can now be turned into long-lasting monuments, so long as someone snaps a high-quality photo of it while it lasts.) These monuments are still being discovered today in the midst of jungles, caves and even occasionally in areas that are now covered by hundreds of feet of an ocean. And with every such discovery, mankind connects itself to the ages. The dreams of earliest men to achieve eternal life are realized, and the hopes of modern man to never be forgotten all come to fruition in one felled swoop. Granite or bronze monuments are indeed the lifeblood of the soul of all mankind.
An eloquently worded description of these phenomena of monuments comes in a well-received book called Significance of Monuments: On the Shaping of Human Experience in Neolithic and Bronze. This book tells the tale of monuments that explain to the ages what the great thinkers and philosophers of by-gone generations were thinking. It also discusses the various telling changes that even the most famous of monuments have seen and makes points that are instructive to those who are interested in sociology and even anthropology. Many great monuments have outlived their builders by 1,000 years or more and, in the hands of caretakers many generations removed from the original authors, have taken on vastly different uses and meanings than was intended from the beginning. Some of the legendary pyramid monuments of Mexico, for example, were originally built over the course of 100 years or more by men who were part of an optimistic society, one that hoped to build a metaphorical stairway to heaven with their monuments so that they could always be near their good and gracious Gods. But then, over the years, that original atmosphere of hope and joy and love associated with the monument gradually became darker and darker until, one day, the pyramid monuments came to memorialize the opposite realm from their happy origins. The monuments came to be used as a tool of the rulers to keep men in obedience by staging gruesome human sacrifices amidst the monuments. This evil occurrence (some historians estimate that a single pyramid alone saw more than a million hearts ripped from bodies) was eventually ended after centuries of civil strife, and, today, the monuments serve largely an even different purpose -- one of education and scholarship. The most metaphysical among us might conclude that the changes in the uses and applications of these monuments over the years have occurred precisely as intended from above. The current use of these monuments certainly does seem as if it may have been divinely created in order to assure that the hopes -- and the mistakes -- of social worlds gone by would be studied, and remembered, for an eternity.
Such is the case with historic monuments of yesteryear as is today’s monuments meant to memorialize the people and events of this time. By erecting a monument to memorialize an important person in one’s life (whether it be a family member or simply someone who was -- or is -- a particular influence), we are assuring that people of the future will be able to experience the same influences -- even 10s of thousands of years from now. And, again, this phenomenon even, today, applies to monuments built of materials that were never intended to last forever.
Monuments are mankind’s connection to the world, eternity, the universe and, perhaps, even to God. Comforting thoughts, indeed, even for someone in the midst of a great grief

 

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