It was one of those ritual trips to KLCC that students take while trying to deal with the short-semester boredom. As the LRT rolled on, the three of them sat watching the rain battering against the train windows… trees swinging wildly in the wind, cars caught in the jam below… and they began to talk about the train. What could possibly have existed a 100 years ago along the same route they were travelling on? People moved about on foot, rode animals, primitive carts maybe; taking hours to cross distances that we now cross in minutes. Their clothes, technology and food would have definitely been different from ours… ours developed, exotic and stylish; and theirs quite dull and monotonous. But what if, for a moment, we were one of those people who lived a 100 years ago that these bored friends were talking about on a train? Where exactly would we be as they spoke?
Somewhere deep below the ground, walked upon by millions of busy people. Rarely or never thought about. Our faces nameless, our positions taken over, our institutions and houses destroyed, our contributions ridiculously insignificant, our lifestyles outdated… our entire civilization buried. Our once existence on this earth would be imaginary.
Caesar’s dead for all you could care to know about him today. The mighty Pharaoh lies lifeless in a box somewhere in Egypt. The affluent Ottoman Empire has crumbled. And we would never ever know the multitudes of common people that lived during those generations. So too, we will one day be. Meaningless to those that live when we are dead.
If to learn from the past is to realise the true insignificance and temporariness of everything that humans have always cherished, it is also to marvel at the timelessness of the lives of revolutionary people throughout the ages.
I miss those days when there was no Facebook or Twitter or Messenger. Days of long letters to far away relatives and hours of phone conversations with friends without having to worry about credit running out, excitedly looking forward to parties where we could see our real faces instead of fake profile pics. Picnics in fields and parks when we’d hear and see lively animated chatter, where we played real games and not some ridiculous virtual farming. Days of real expressions of the joy of births and weddings and meeting, not the little black hearts and godforsaken smileys and socially obligatory “likes” that interaction has come down to. And definitely not the million fake poses that the best moments of our lives have become.
Relatives or friends or even family, we’re literally only virtually connected now. By cables and worldwide webs and wireless connections. Not anymore by blood or affinity or love or childhood. And the worst part is, we feel better off this way. Hugging our darling, cherished computers and phones to sleep.
Changing like ephemeral ceilings from night to day,
entranced I watch these ethereal skies, under whom live billions of restless lives…
while every moment, in silence they unflinchingly execute their purpose; indicating the unstoppable passage of time, the steady helpless depletion of life and the utter transience of all human endeavor with such paradoxical beauty; as they switch from glorious mornings to amber afternoons to starry twilight, and dissolve into the darkest of nights.