Here on this grass I am surrounded on three sides by ancient buildings whose stone faces tower above me. The closest, the Berliner Dom, is at the same time both decadent and decaying. The intricately carved columns and gables are covered with a dark layer of grime and the larger than life statues of angels, statesman, and prophets are in some place so decayed that their features are virtually indistinguishable. Still, despite the ravages of time this building is a magnificent sight. I’m sitting here on fresh green grass but this huge building has been here for centuries. One can hardly imagine all that has occurred while this building stands here in perpetuity. How many wars have been fought on nearby soil? How many lost souls have sat on it’s steps and wondered? How much blood has been spilt and how many people strained and starved to make this giant stone arch, these immense domes?
I’m sitting here on a sunny, slightly chilly spring day and watching the crowds of tourists swarming across the sidewalks of Berlin. I’m just one of many, just one of the multicultural entourage that has flocked to this city on this insignificant day. Is this why these buildings have been constructed? Is the sole reason for building such immense monuments simply to attract more eyes, to show more people that yes, great people have been here, and they left great things behind them? I ask too many rhetorical questions. Of course these things are true.
The longer I stay in Europe the more I realize the immense amount of history contained here. There are more stories dead beneath the dirt of this continent than there are people to remember them. For someone like me, someone who is so entrenched in the digital world, there are few things more chilling than the words “data loss” An erased hard drive, a burnt book, a voice extinguished never to be heard again, these things scare me more than anything else. I can understand why people build huge monuments. I can understand why people have killed and conquered in order to bring home riches. I can understand why all these tons of stone have been hauled from the earth to stand tall. If one thing can be said of human nature, it is that everyone, every last one of us feels a deep and burning desire to be remembered. I am no exception.