Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Of Kings and Emperors (or, A funny thing happened on the way to my blog)

The secret's out...I get sidetracked. It happens all the time. Usually it's the unfortunate result of trying to do too many things at once. But occasionally, a nice little reminder will pop up and bring me back so that I can tie everything up in a package with a pretty bow. This is one of those times.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art just before the King Tut exhibit left. I was thrilled, mainly because we were gifted free tickets by my boss, and these days anything free is a good deal. I think I had an idea what to expect in terms of the artifacts, and they did not disappoint. To see physical evidence of history, in amazing condition, right before your very eyes, there's really nothing like it.
What I didn't expect was to come out feeling like I'm the one living in an ancient culture.

One of the main rooms held two very small golden busts. They were not particularly noticeable, compared to many of the grander items. But a label on the side of the display indicated in one short sentence that these were only a small part of treasures that were crafted for the burial of two of King Tut's children, two stillborn baby girls. I was fascinated to learn that these babies were buried with jewels and treasures comparable to other notable Egyptians. This was way beyond acknowledgement, these little girls were honored and respected.

I was recently reminded of my fascination while watching March of the Penguins. Now, I have to point out that I was not particularly excited about seeing the film because I was so disgusted by the bandwaggoning that went on when this movie came out and "swept the country." (If you want to see the real documentary, with a truly amazing story, rent the DVD and watch Of Men and Penguins, the behind the scenes doc - there's the film that deserves critical acclaim. But I digress...).

As Morgan Freeman eloquently describes the suffering and sacrifice of both the male and female Emperor penguins to protect their eggs, I was struck by nature's example of honoring life. It is after the penguin parents travel the 70 mile distance to the breeding ground that the real challenge begins - transferring the egg from Mom to Dad without touching the frozen ground, and then keeping the egg warm enough to survive through months of unmerciful winter. Even then, those that hatch run the risk of being consumed by the cold. It's a true miracle that any of them survive the harsh conditions. And for 1/4 of the babies that don't survive, many of the parent penguins will lay down and literally let themselves wither away in despair. It's an example of a selfless creature acting solely on behalf of another creature - an example that's clearly lost on humans.

It never ceases to amaze me how blind we can be to the things that are right in front of our faces. Present nature and ancient history point to the value of one solitary life, but modern human beings will go to great lengths to dismiss it. Especially if it will make things easier, less awkward and more convenient for themselves.

I for one believe there are lessons to be learned in the smallest and simplest things all around us. I just hope I never get too sidetracked to notice.

Thanks for listening.

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