This is a funny, little poem, but a reminder that all things pass. It doesn’t matter how large or small you were, you will eventually end up bones in box (no matter how far modern science takes you). It’s a good reminder in order to not take your victories too seriously or your failures to hard; there will be another chance tomorrow to make your mark and if not then, another day will do, but whatever the outcome that won’t last either.
Don’t forget to be kind hearted along the way, people will remember your cruelty and also, hopefully, your kindnesses. Memory is the only thing that lasts among the human race – it’s why Plato might be dead, but he still lives for many philosophy students.
Books will burn and servers will collapse and every bit of saved data will eventually get muddled, but the things we truly love will live forever in the collective human memory. And I wish that the small things could live on, the shock of bright yellow trees as I ride down 40th street, the pink clouds ballooning through the sky at sunset, the euphoria at the end of a perfect day as I sink into a divot in the earth that cradles me like a pillow, but those will leave with me whether I die alone as a pauper or the most famous woman in the world.
But unlike this poem, I do hope that when someone looks at a billiard ball, they see the mastodon tusk it used to be, when they see rust, they see Charlemagne’s sword. The small things can be great too. Because when a thing is gone, it’s gone for good, but somehow some part of it still remains. It’s more than memory that lives on, somehow some living corporeal part remains, perhaps even somehow we are connected to that thing, to that greatness that lives on. Just don’t get cocky about it, because even that observation is only temporary.
On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness
by Arthur Guiterman
The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.
The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is ferric oxide, known as rust.
The grizzly bear whose potent hug
Was feared by all, is now a rug.
Great Caesar’s bust is on the shelf,
And I don’t feel so well myself.