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BONES



Sooner or later, everything, including these flesh vehicles we call bodies, ends up in a landfill. Whether our bodies are cremated or buried with traditional embalming, they all return to the ground. Even mummies, preserved for centuries, will not last forever. Consider, what in this world does not perish? Even the stones decay in time. Any source of matter is perishable, to be converted to a different form over time. Energy is always recreating itself into different forms. If you burn a log, energy emerges from it. The log does not perish. Only the form perishes. The log becomes a different form, converted into flames, heat, and ash. When we are cremated, our bodies do not cease to exist; they are merely converted into a different form of matter and energy. If we are not cremated, our bones seem to last the longest while the rest of the body decomposes around them, decomposition itself being a conversion to a different form.

 

Imagine, some ten thousand or more years from now, after our culture has crumbled and has rebuilt itself from the rocks up, what would archeologists conclude if they found my bones? If I had been buried in the traditional way and luck determined that the grave was not destroyed over time, they might conclude that our society buried their dead with honors, sealed in coffins, embalmed, perhaps with trinkets or something meaningful to the deceased left inside. One of the enduring traits of humans, from ancient people thousands of years ago to today, is that they bury their dead with honors and trinkets. Human beings have always had a fascination with these flesh vehicles, trying to preserve them long after they have lost their usefulness. We seem to have difficulty discerning the difference between our bodies that transport us and who we really are.

 

For most of my life, I’ve been fascinated with ancient history, and I love to watch shows about archeology and ancient cultures. There are so many fascinating things about ancient cultures, such as cities that appear to have been abandoned as far back as ten or more thousand years ago, leaving no trace of the inhabitants. For instance, Teotihuacan in Mexico was discovered by the Aztecs a thousand or more years after it was built. At its height, it is estimated to have had a population of around 200,000, which would have made it the largest city in the world at the time. The Aztecs called it the city of the gods because they believed that the gods had constructed the city for them. The original builders of the city had abandoned it. Archeologists have discovered that many cities of the ancient world were abandoned because human beings pushed themselves to the point of not being able to sustain what they had built. If we put that into a modern context, there are cities like Chornobyl and Fukushima that are no longer inhabitable due to pushing through technology without maintaining responsibility and wisdom.

 

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about ancient cultures is the mystery. There are apparent anomalies in many of the ancient ruins, such as stones carved with such precision that modern instruments could not duplicate them or stone spheres that are perfectly spherical when the people of the time supposedly only had stone tools. Then there is the conundrum of how stones weighing multiple tons have been quarried and moved hundreds of miles and set into place by ancient people who didn’t even have access to the wheel.  There is the question of why pyramids show up in ancient cultures all over the world or why certain myths and traditions are duplicated in different cultures that supposedly could have had no contact with one another. Could it be that we have been here before, standing on the precipice of self-destruction, allowing our greed and bigotry to overrule our common sense? Could it be that there was previously a worldwide technologically advanced society that destroyed itself, and the few remaining living bodies had to repopulate the planet over thousands of years after being struck back to caveman status? Could it be that there are lessons we need to learn from the ancient past?

 

The stones that are left last even longer than bones, and they have secrets, just like bones, secrets that may never be revealed. Eventually, little would be left of a previous world but stones and bones. If such a disaster were to happen again, paper would decay, so libraries would disappear. Computers, cell phones, and all the information and data within them would disappear because metal would also rust and corrode. There might be pillars of concrete or carved statues that would remain for thousands of years, but erosion would occur, and thousands of years of vegetation would compost and cover everything that exists with soil. If the human race were to survive at all, it would be because a few might be left to repopulate the earth. Perhaps a few hundred here or a few hundred on the other side of the planet. However, if there were enough nuclear residue left, that might destroy anyone who managed to survive, and no one might be left. It was Einstein who said, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

 

There is an old analogy of blindfolded people who are led to an elephant. One felt the tail and concluded it was a broom. One felt the trunk and concluded it was a snake; one felt the leg and concluded it was a tree. The point, of course, is that without all the evidence, our conclusions can be wrong. Yet, it appears to be a human fault that we tend to draw conclusions without having all the evidence. We assume we know the content of someone’s life story just by looking at the cover of their book. When it comes to some things, such as ancient cultures, we may never have all the evidence, and we can only guess. So, if our worldwide population and society were to be destroyed with only a few bodies left to repopulate the planet and thousands of years from now, archeologists would find the remains of our cities and our burials; what would they think about us? Could they ever know the whole truth? It would be like looking at one photo of one person and trying to figure out their entire life story based on what can be seen in the photo. It can’t be done. If that person is lost with nothing but a photo remaining, one can only guess what their life might have been like. As well, if society were destroyed with only a few bits remaining, the truth of that society would be forever lost. Those who repopulate the earth might pass down stories, but the stories would change over time, and even the stories themselves, in thousands of years, could not define the truth that was once ours.

 

Neil Degrass Tyson says that his greatest fear is that humanity will not have the wisdom to keep from destroying itself. Technology in the service of cleverness or the ego is without wisdom. Technology in the service of greed, selfishness, or hatred is without wisdom. When technology becomes increasingly advanced and is not tempered by wisdom, awareness, and love, destruction must be the inevitable outcome. Could it have been that technology in service of the human ego might have destroyed a technically advanced society thousands of years ago and that if we don’t learn how to set our egos aside, we are headed for the same type of outcome?  

 

The human ego is bent on destruction, and it is impossible for the ego to save itself from destruction. It is our trickster, fooling us into believing it, fooling us into false identities, and justifying disservice to ourselves and others. The ego constantly attempts to prove itself better than others or at least prove itself significant. Without the ego, wars could not exist. Without it, racism and bigotry could not exist, for the ego is so determined to prove its significance that it is willing to destroy to have the illusion of magnitude. Of course, energy cannot be destroyed and would take different forms. Societies, however, can be destroyed, leaving only a trace of their existence for speculation in the far distant future if such a future were to even exist. The destruction that the ego is determined to accomplish risks the annihilation of humanity as a species. Then, who would find our bones, and what could they conclude?

 

The ego identifies with the body. It sees itself as a body and as an identity. This is why we bury the dead and why we dress them in their finest, leave trinkets in the casket, and embalm the bodies as though, even after death, we are preserving the ego’s identification with the body. It was Shakespeare who said, “All the world is a stage and the people merely players.” He could not have been righter. The ego is identity. It is a role. It is a character we play for ourselves and for others. The role switches from person to person. We don’t talk to children the same way we talk to adults. We don’t talk to people in the bar the same way we talk to people at church or talk to our parents the same way we talk to coworkers. We have lines that we have rehearsed throughout life, such as: “How are you doing?” … “I’m fine, thank you. How are you?” How often do we play the role of fine when that isn’t really how we feel? We play the roles of our professions, the roles of mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, friend, or lover. Some of us play the roles of abusers and some of victims, and those roles can be interchangeable. Don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that anyone chooses to be victimized. A victim role can be as simple as thinking, “Of course, I got in the longest line at the checkout. This always happens to me.” Often, having been victimized causes us to think that a victim is all we can ever be. Again, it is just another form of ego, a subconscious need for identity, even if it is a negative identity.

 

Shakespeare forgot to mention that every damn one of us, unless we have learned to set aside our egos, wants to be the director of this play we call life. We want the play to turn out our way. If I always got my way, I would never get pissed off. Even if we are not consciously aware that we are playing a role or that we want to be directors of our play, we still want and try to direct what happens. Body identity causes us to interact with each other as though we are our bodies and as though the body determines our worth as a person. With an ego identity of superiority, we judge other bodies and judge ourselves. We may do it subtly and sweetly, or we may engage in overt bigotry and condemnation.  We may despise others because they don’t fit the roles that have been prescribed to them, but we may despise ourselves because we can’t fit our preordained role and don’t have the courage to refuse it. Without the human ego, there would be no need to feel superior to others or condemn ourselves for not fitting into the roles that we are expected to play.  

 

In order to feel superior, the ego must have an enemy. It sees itself as better than others for being a different race, religion, culture, socioeconomic level, gender identity, sexual orientation, homeless, transient, disabled, liberal, conservative, etc. The list can go on and on. It can be on an individual level, a social level, or a national level. As I said before, without the ego, war could not exist. Without the ego, we would see ourselves and others as having equal value no matter what they look like, experience, how much wealth they do or do not possess, or how they express themselves. Without the ego, selfishness, and greed could not exist because we would see everyone as worthy as ourselves.

 

In the end, nothing will remain of the body but bones or ashes. It will no longer have the animation of life and will be insignificant, like the thousands of skulls stacked in the Ossuary Catacombs de Paris. None of them have graves, labels, tombstones, or identification. None is more significant than the other. They are only thousands and thousands of bones stacked one upon the other, signifying only that they were once the vehicles that housed an ego. The question is, when will we learn that our value is not in the ego or in the body? The ego dies with the body. It can no longer play a role, be selfish, or be bent on destruction. It can no longer cause conflict, start wars, or determine that one body has more value than any other. In the Ossuary Catacombs, you cannot determine which may have been a sinner or a saint, nobleman or pauper. You cannot determine which might have been one race or another, which was homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, male, female, or transgender. In the end, we are all only bones or fragments of bones, and even that will not last forever. In the end, identities are gone.

 

So, the question is, why do we get so worked up over those identities while we are here when every one of us knows we have an expiration date? Why do we concern ourselves with what others do or do not do with their lives when they are not causing harm to anyone simply by being who they are? Why do we assume one race has more value than another when, in truth, there is no higher or lower, no greater or lesser, no one human who is even capable of being more valuable or less valuable than another? Why do we concern ourselves with the roles that we are supposed to play or what other people think? Billionaires hoarding unbelievable amounts of money will end up as either a pile of bones or a pile of ashes, just like everyone else. Government officials passing laws based on bigotry rather than laws that support the fulfillment of society will end up in the same condition as those they seek to oppress or those who try to serve and protect society—bones. Government officials or others may be remembered in history books or have monuments built to them, but so what? In time, even the monuments crumble. Movie and recording stars and religious leaders will end up as bones. Bigots and haters will end the same way as those they may have condemned or have gone to war against in the name of ego identity. The racist ends up in the same place as the race he condemns.

 

The question is, when will we learn that knowing who we truly are and knowing that our worth is equal to everyone means there is nothing to prove to ourselves or anyone else? When will we learn not to listen to the ego or its trickery? Those who are confident have nothing to prove. Those who know their true value have no need to belittle, condemn, judge, or attack anyone. They have no need to try to force anyone into playing a role that they think they should play. They have no need to try to live up to a role that was perhaps prescribed to them and indoctrinated into them since they were old enough to understand language. Those who know the value of all, who identify with a higher love, who see beyond ego, body, and identity, know that saving the human race from destroying itself cannot come from any ego goal, and the way to recognize any goal of the ego is that when you achieved it, it never satisfied you. So, a new ego goal had to be chosen quickly to replace it. The ego never seeks peace. It seeks only conflict because it believes that it can only have significance in conflict. If we want our children and our children’s children and those beyond them to thrive with awareness and happiness, it cannot be accomplished with our egos. We must discard hate and bigotry now, for without subduing the ego and discarding the ego's need for conflict, there can be no future to come after us, and all that will be left is bones.

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