Golden Statuettes and the Illusion of Permanence

February 23, 2015

Last night, if you watched the Oscars, a ritual occurred. It’s a ritual that has been with humanity since our very beginning.

It was not about the little statues or the speeches.

What the Oscars are all about is people seeking after permanence.

People crave immortality. We want some piece of our lives to be permanent. Somehow, Birdman will always be on the Best Picture list, and I can’t believe, of the very few movies I saw in theaters last year, I picked the future best picture to see.

But how many people in fifty years are really going to know what Birdman is? Look back at the list of winners. There are a few memorable films, the films that are studied in classes. But there are some real goofs too. A lot of films have not stood the test of time. How many people in fifty years are going to know what Birdman is?

That’s not a knock on the film. That’s just the way things are. Because last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we had the opportunity to be reminded that we are dust. And all of our work will return to dust.

We have a real problem with creating an illusion of permanence. I tune out as soon as someone uses words like forever. We think that we build something or we put a plaque on something and it will “always” be there. But we tear down things that are just fifty years old to make space for our “permanent” things. We are too in love with “new” to be concerned with “permanent.”

Take the weather in the Northeast. They are saying Boston has had record-breaking snow, which is significant. “The most snow ever,” they say. Well what does that mean? It means they are getting the most snow recorded in the last century and a quarter, more or less. One-hundred and twenty-five years, out of six billion years.

Our reach into history just is not very long. And our reach into the future is not much better. Even the great people, the people who got into our history books, how much do we really know about them?

dust

I have decided that striving for permanence is a losing proposition, one that destines me for frustration and anxiety in this life that I have. Just because we write books or paint pictures or build great things, let us not delude ourselves. All our work will return to dust. All we are called to do is help the people who exist here and now. 

And that is enough.