The most ambitious and dramatically exciting analogy we can possibly hazard is that existing between the predictable rotation of our planet and the orbit of mankind’s eternal experience.
A 18th Century French complaint, uttered in the midst of several bloody revolutions, “plus ca change, plus la meme chose” (the more things change, the more they remain the same) had particular reference to the political history of the time, but is universally applicable, and is the specific theme of this note.
A knowledgeable observer of history would easily observe that identical issues and situational occurrences are repeated in each age, and with little variation. Unlike the comedic (but meaningful) film, “Groundhog Day,” the context and setting vary with the age, but the identical themes keep on recycling.
The classic works of literature are universally recognized, not only for their aesthetic rendition, but, as well, for their expression of the recurring themes of mankind’s experience, such as ambition, conflict, unrequited love, xenophobia, injustice, and idealistic aspiration. The brilliance of such writers as Shakespeare, Dickens, Austin, Thackeray, Twain, Faulkner, and Roth is that they present so artfully, the orbit of man’s life and common experience; Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story, Pygmalion to My Fair Lady and Anna Karenina to Vanity Fair are but a few of the plethora of illustrative examples.
Children’s stories and books also recount the experienced themes of humanity, Cinderella (the discovery of an exceptional individual in a crowd of ordinary people), Jack and the Bean Stalk (the danger inherent in the search for reward, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark) and many others which, while expressed in children’s language and illustration, depict man’s common aspirations as well as his vulnerability.
There are few wiser statements than, “If we forget history, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.” Those who are conversant in the subject of ancient history, are best able to understand current events; the same conflicts occur, whether fought in Greek togas or U.S. Army fatigues, the diseases of lust for power and wealth, religious conflict, and xenophobia, are perpetual and are efficiently recycled.
A classic lesson is taught by an examination of the primitive worship of the Sun God by early man. The perceived dying of the Earth in winter (except for the evergreens) was reversed by ceremonial observances in celebration of those magically green trees so that the Earth was brought back to life, as evidenced by the consequent thaw, greenery, appearance of rabbits and the like. These antecedents of the popular holidays of Christmas and Easter are illustrative examples of universal recycling.
The next time someone may greet you with the common expression, “What’s new” and you respond, in the usual social jargon, “Same old, same old,” you are entitled, if desired, to entertain the notion that you speak for the entirety of the human experience.
Someday, homo sapiens may develop sufficient wisdom to better confront these universal issues, but for the present, they continue to persist in their recycled occurrence within the orbit of timeless human experience.