I am a stitch, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I saw the Gebelein Man (Ginger) at the British Museum today. I’ve seen him before, but this time my thoughts are lingering.
He was a young man, wounded in the shoulder, and buried in a shallow grave. The hot sand mummified him over 5,000 years ago. Skin and some hair, as well as all of his bones, are still visible, preserved. He is in the fetal position surrounded by the pots and trinkets put into his burial pit. He’s not a statue, or a painting. He’s a human being, a dead body.
He lived 5,000 years ago. I know people lived long before me, I know, but 5,000 years is a lot to get my head around. There were other excavated bones that the museum dates back 10,000 years. My mind shuts off at that number.
If people were around that long ago, if that many lives have been lived head to toe of one another, then my life is . . . well, it is so small. It’s smaller than dust. On the continuum, I’m a tiny delicate stitch and so is everyone else. The gilded pharaohs, the kings and queens of England, all of this stuff, accomplishment, rings and statues and paintings, taken individually are blips. Really rather insignificant within the context of the whole picture.
A day at the British Museum can be a bit overwhelming, sort of depressing. What the hell are we all doing? What is the point? How am I supposed to care about the callus on my heels ever again?
We leave tomorrow to fly home. It’s late and I’m thinking. Here’s what I’ve come up with . . .
Maybe the joy comes from being part of the whole? Being one mosaic tile, or a tiny silkened thread in the grand weaving of humankind. There’s comfort in knowing others have done the same thing?
Is that what I am supposed to see when I look at a person that lived and died thousands of years ago? They are like me and while we are both small, without us, our lives lived out, there would be missing pieces. The whole thing could unravel if we fail to find value in being a part? Maybe that’s it.
In day to day life, this is incredibly hard to grasp. Everything in our world is geared toward the individual. Our life story, reaching our potential, leaving our mark. We are all unique, our fingerprints say so, but maybe that’s what we tell ourselves because being a tiny stitch is hard to take. If we focused on being a stitch, none of our silliness would really matter.
I mean, who cares about paying off a mortgage, if we cure disease, or condition our hair, if in the equivalent of a blink, we too will be in a hole with other societies stacked upon us? Those Egyptians used all that gold and makeup, all those lovely oils because they weren’t thinking about this stuff. They thought they were it, the cat’s ass. They had to. Being part of something unfathomably bigger, something we can’t touch, or see in it’s entirety, can be paralyzing.
I’m always amazed when I read about people that spent their lives building something they never saw completed. Some of these large cathedrals, The Great Wall of China, took entire lifetimes. I used to think there was sadness in that, but I guess that is what we are all doing.
We will not get to see the generations built on top of ours. We don’t know what 5,000 years in the future will look like anymore than that young man under glass in the museum did.
It’s grander than one life, one civilization even. Stitches making up a whole.
Sigh. I’m not sure how much longer I can entertain this line of thinking. I am an only child. It is always startling news when we realize we are not the center of the universe.
My thoughts from the laundry room. Sleep together.