One of my students told me that the remains of King Richard III were discovered under a parking lot. Then, I read a couple of articles about the discovery and the DNA testing that followed. Now, there are articles about re-examining the life and rule of the king. All of that is interesting and important to history, but that’s not what I thought about while reading the articles.
I thought about Richard III and what he would think about all of this. As king, he probably thought that his grave would never be lost. It would have a monument standing forever, and people would visit it for generations to come. He was a king with all of the power and fame that goes with the position. There is no way that he would fade from history enough to have his grave lost and covered by some form of construction. As he knew, it’s good to be the king.
However, it didn’t turn out that way, and there was Richard under cars leaking oil. I think that’s the mistake that people make. Famous people assume that their deeds will always be chiseled in stone. Regular people think that their way of life is the way that it’s always going to be. Nations think that they will last forever. But, none of that really happens. No matter how many monuments are built or markers are erected, they will ultimately fall into ruin and be covered by future people making their place in the world.
Does anyone remember the greatest leader of the Hittites? I bet he thought they would. For a long time, no one remembered any of the Hittites.
How many people can remember all of the presidents? Only 43 people have ever held the position, but not many people can name them all. I’m sure this guy thought he would be remembered by school children for years to come.
Sure, there are people who are known by most everyone. George Washington and Julius Caesar come to mind. But, will they always be remembered? I don’t know. There’s a Washington Monument, but it doesn’t seem too sturdy these days. If it stands for a thousand years will future people know who it honors and what he did? The Great Pyramid is still standing, but how many people know who had it built? Surely, he didn’t know that one day his monument would be endangered by urban sprawl.
I see the same thing in my town. Every morning, I pass a vacant lot that used to be a park named in honor of a former mayor. There is also a football field named for a man who coached at a local military academy for many years. The academy closed in the 1980s, and the field fell into disrepair. It has been resurrected as a park where walk, jog and play. When those men were honored, they probably thought that children would swing and touchdowns would be scored on their fields forever more.
Even worse, a drive down a country road will likely take you past family cemeteries that are covered with weeds and crumbling under the pressure of tree roots. As cities grow and land becomes limited, many cemeteries become lost and covered by that growth.
What are the lessons of King Richard III and the other people who I mentioned? That nothing last forever. We, both famous and not so famous, have markers, monuments and grave stones to prove that we were here and be remembered. But, it is a futile attempt. If King Richard III can be covered by a parking lot, then we all can.
As I titled another post, only the rocks live forever, and they are usually the ones without inscriptions. We can put up all the monuments in the world, but we have to realize that they will not always stand. We can only live our lives and make our marks on our little part of the world. For kings, presidents and anyone else in the world that should be enough.