Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Comment on the Pyramids

I ran again into this passage this morning and wanted to share it - the book is Gene Wolfe's Soldier of Sidon, and the narrator is the Roman mercenary Latro, who loses his short term memory each day. This is Latro's comment on the pyramids, as he passes by on the Nile, and I thought his comment poignant:

Our ship passes white temples as massive as mountains -- mountains white as snow beneath this blinding sun, and sharp and pointed as any sword. Who would have thought human hands could have made such things? Neht-nefret says the ancient kings are laid there. The people of Kemet build many temples, Muslak says, and very large ones, of which the mountain-temples are largest of all. If gods wished temples, would they not build them? They build mountains and plant forests instead, and that is what I would do were I a god.

I am reminded of YHWH's answer to David, when the Hebrew king grieved that he had built no temple for the God of his people:

In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me an house of cedar?

This puts me in a deeply contemplative mood. How might human history have been different, if the resources spent on building temples (for gods who themselves choose to build forests and create food rather than build temples) had been spent instead on feeding the people?

And yet...and impoverished the world would be if there were no Pyramids, no St. Peter's, no Parthenon.

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