The destruction of the Library of Alexandria is one of the events in our species' history, that sets me thinking about the ultimate futility of knowledge acquisition and dissemination. Founded in the 3rd century BC, it quickly grew into the greatest repository of human thinking that had ever existed. Apparently visitors to the city of Alexandria were required to give up any written material for transcription and deposition in the great library. The modern word museum, is derived from one of the early parts of the library - the temple of the muses.
Estimates of the size of the collection vary greatly, although some have suggested it numbered up to a million scrolls. So as with libraries today, the Library of Alexandria was an important seat of learning and discovery and no doubt contributed greatly to the lives of the people. The fate of all of this accumulated knowledge is a cruel one. Although the exact cause of the destruction of the library is debated, the outcome is not. From Wikipedia:
Although the actual circumstances and timing of the physical destruction of the library remains uncertain, it is however clear that by the 8th century, the library was no longer a significant institution and had ceased to function in any important capacity. Alexandria was not a major research center for the Islamic world. Moreover, if the collection had survived to the early 700s, it would very likely have been incorporated into the library of the Al-Azhar mosque (and later university) in Cairo. This collection has come down to the present intact, but does not include Alexandrine texts.
We will never know what knowledge and words were deposited in the great library. We probably have an idea about a mere fraction of the stories that were lost, never to be heard again. And if you think about it, ever since our species evolved (some 200,000 years ago) there have no doubt been many stories, thought and told, that have been lost to civilisation because no copy remains. Though our distant ancestors left their genetic code, what they thought and how they lived has been lost to time. Does that put their actions into perspective? If all of the information lost in the great library can never be found out again, was there any point in accumulating it in the first place? If somebody deleted your blog and every copy of the words that it contained, would you start afresh, or resign the battle lost, and give up.
Even in this internet age, where every word can be recorded and stored for a promised eternity, there is no guarantee against the breakdown of civilisation. When a meteor smacks into our planet, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, no end user agreement is going to protect you or your life's work. And then the best you can hope for is to be an imagining in a future writer's mind: who contemplates the destruction of the internet and all of the information that it had once contained and wonders whether the people would have bothered, if they'd known that it would all turn to dust.
As for me, I write to amuse myself and not for any great posterity. In the unlikely event the I do deconstruct reality and get to initiate my great plan, it will not have made anything more pointfull. But I would have had a much more enjoyable time, than had I not started my blog at all.Go Top