Last night the Old Boy and I enjoyed a delightful evening with friends: fabulous food, little glass of drinky poos and even a little gift each! (Thank you, you-know-who!) They’ve recently returned from a trip to England, France and Greece, with stop-overs in Abu Dhabi and Bangkok on the way home. You’ll be pleased to know that I was not jealous…much.
Via the medium of digital photography on computer linked to TV (technological wizardry), we saw a little of what they saw. I’m one of the strange few who actually (really) loves seeing people’s holiday snaps. It’s the only way I’m going to see most of the world and I’m not above living vicariously through other people’s experiences. I figure, the good Lord gave me an imagination and it’d be a waste not to use it.
So, in the comfort of their recliner chair, I visited Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, Tintagel, Paris, Athens, Corinth, the oracle at Delphi, Olympia, Santorini and a couple of other Greek Islands. I went on a camel trek into the desert and thought, “Why?” I saw Greek monasteries perched on gigantic boulders, seemingly carved out of the rock, clinging precariously to the very edges of said rock and thought, “Why and how?” I sat with my friends in little cafes and watched them drink Ouzo and thought, “Liquid licorice? I think not.”
I saw the ridiculously tall and oddly-shaped skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi and compared them to the towering cathedrals in Salisbury, St Paul’s and Notre Dame, and the monumental temples in Greece (including all the Roman ones) and, finally, iconic Stonehenge. And I reflected a little on Australian achievements in the same vein: the big lobster; the giant koala; the big pineapple; the ridiculously big banana… What is it with humanity that we need to build gigantic things?
Are we, as a species, so deeply insecure we have to erect giant structures that scream out to the universe, “Notice me! Look at me! I done good.” Why are we obsessed with recreating the Tower of Babel? Is it a neurotic longing for former glory, or an attempt to capture that elusive something that will finally assuage our yearning for self-worth?
I think it’s interesting that all the big wigs – the pharaohs, the emperors, the chiefs – felt the need to build a monument of some sort to say, “I was here. I was important. Don’t forget me.” Obviously, it wasn’t enough to be important in their life-time. We’re a vain species; never content to just be. It’s one of our greatest strengths (because it drives us on to invent, to improve, to explore) but it’s also one of our greatest weaknesses.
Yes, it’s amazing how reflective and philosophical I can become with the right combination of bubbles, roast lamb, macarons and photographs.