Perpetual Amnesia

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 ESV)

Men’s hearts and their corruptions are the same now as in former times; their desires, and pursuits, and complaints, still the same. How many things and people in history were thought to be very great? Yet today, there is no remembrance of them anymore.

George Santayana (December 16, 1863 – September 26, 1952) was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. He is probably best known for his quotation that states, “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Many of mankind’s greatest achievements are displayed in the great monuments that out ancestors built in the past. The Great Sphinx, the pyramids of Egypt, the zygorats of Mesopotamia, the Aztec temples of Mexico, Stonehenge, Easter Island, Machu Picchu and the Nasca Lines in Peru, Petra in Jordan, Greek temples and Roman monuments, to name just a few. Yet today, we cannot even determine how many of these structures were built or what their purposes were. Our modern cranes and industrial equipment could not lift or move many of the stones used to build these monuments, yet ancient civilizations around the world seems to have built them with ease. The stones on some of these monuments are cut so precisely that modern machine shops cannot match the precision of our ancestors. The Great Pyramid of Giza has a footprint of is over thirteen acres. The accuracy of the pyramid’s workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimetres in length. The base is horizontal and flat to within ±15 mm. The sides of the square base are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points (within 4 minutes of arc) based on true north, not magnetic north, and the finished base was squared to a mean corner error of only 12 seconds of arc. The completed design dimensions, as suggested by Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie’s survey and subsequent studies, are estimated to have originally been 280 cubits high by 440 cubits long at each of the four sides of its base. The ratio of the perimeter to height of 1760/280 cubits equates to 2π to an accuracy of better than 0.05% (corresponding to the well-known approximation of π as 22/7). Some Egyptologists consider this to have been the result of deliberate design proportion. One Egyptologist wrote, “We can conclude that although the ancient Egyptians could not precisely define the value of π, in practice they used it”.

Brain surgery is perhaps the oldest of the practiced medical arts. There is ample evidence of brain surgery dating back to the Neolithic (late Stone Age) period. Unearthed remains of successful brain operations, as well as surgical implements, were found in France, at one of Europe’s noted archaeological sites. And, the success rate was remarkable, even circa 7,000 B.C. But, pre-historic evidence of brain surgery was not limited to Europe. Pre-Incan civilization used brain surgery as an extensive practice as early as 2,000 B.C. In Paracas, Peru, a desert strip south of Lima, archaeological evidence indicates that brain surgery was used extensively. Here, too, an inordinate success rate was noted as patients were restored to health. The treatment was used for mental illnesses, epilepsy, headaches, organic diseases, osteomylitis, as well as head injuries.

Mankind seems to be a species with perpetual amnesia. How many of our new inventions are truly new? None. It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after. There is evidence of electricity, flight, plumbing and many other modern technologies in antiquity. If the world lasts long enough, someday someone will invent writing, microwave ovens, electric guitars, and computers and software.

If we would be entertained with new things, we must acquaint ourselves with the things of God, get a new nature; then old things pass away, and all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In heaven all is new (Revelation 21:5), all new at first, wholly unlike the present state of things, a new world indeed (Luke 20:35), and all new to eternity, always fresh, always flourishing. This consideration should make the redeemed welcome our natural deaths, not fear death. Death is part of life, perhaps death could be called the climax of our lives, assuming our souls are redeemed and we have accepted Yeshua as our Messiah and Savior. From the moment we are born, our bodies begin to die. In this world there is nothing but the same over and over again, and we can expect nothing from it more or better than we have already had.

George Santayana’s quote is good, whereas King Solomon’s is brilliant. Solomon knew we were doomed to repeat our past and always reinvent the wheel, George Santayana seemed to think we could do something to change this fact. The only thing we can do to change anything is to prepare for eternity. There are only two destinations, and our purpose in life is to choose our final destination. Not making a choice is a choice, and the consequences of that choice is eternal death and damnation.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
(2 Corinthians 6:1-2 ESV)