Maybe it was the fact that everyone who ever built any of this stuff was well and truly dead, but after wandering around Cambodia’s temples of Angkor for while, I couldn’t help thinking that this must inevitably happen to our civilisations too.
It’s 2014 and humanity continues to grief each other over irrelevant shit like skin colour, birthplace, gender, where we stick our genitals, and which invisible man-in-the-sky we believe or don’t. For all the technological advances we have made in the 900 years since the Khmer empire fell, humanity hasn’t really changed.
One day, hopefully in the distant future, we and everyone we’ve ever known will all be gone. All our achievements and failures; thoughts and ideas, prejudices and regards will be forgotten. All but a tiny fraction of our buildings will fall to ruins, and those that remain will stand dilapidated and bereft of all material objects. Our cities will be retaken by whatever form nature has been twisted into.
I wonder who or what will replace us? What will the tourists of the future think about our beliefs, our buildings, our stuff, our conflicts, our technological advances, our injustices, and our histories? Will they look back on us favourably, like we do for the ancient Greeks? Or will they see us in the same light as Genghis Khan and his marauding Mongol hordes?
I have a theory on why we visit places such as Angkor, the Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, etc. Yes, they are architectural wonders, but I think there is a deeper connection. When we consider the vast amount of time it took for a civilization to grow from the jungle, to conquer its neighbours then fall to them, be forgotten and reclaimed by the forest, our lives feel somewhat insignificant. And yet this insignificance is comforting. It makes us feel like the things we do (or don’t do) doesn’t really matter in the grand cosmic scale of things, because one day the sun will swallow the Earth, the stars will fade, and universe will collapse. Maybe that realisation, at least for a little while, can lift the enormous burden of existence from our shoulders.