Yesterday I drove north on Interstate 35 in Oklahoma through the Arbuckle Mountains and wind farms, in part for research for my sequel, but mostly because I was curious as to what I would see gazing into the marble eyes of Roman emperors at an exhibit entitled:The Hall of Emperors of the Capitoline Museums, Rome, located in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.
The world has come a long way since Vespasian oversaw the beginning of construction of what we today call the Roman Colosseum. American’s don’t hold brutal competitions for popular public entertainment, but we still have a long way to go before we no longer see violence as a form of entertainment; more on that in a bit.
Staring into the marble eyes of such immortals made me realize that this is as close as I will ever be to visualizing these particular Western ancients outside of literature. As I looked further into the eyes of a young Marcus Aurelius I began to wonder what literature will one day be written about the people of the United States? Which representatives, immortalized in marble or bronze, will remain long after we are gone?
It is easy to forget that a way of life that exists today may not be here forever. It is easy to become lost in hotdogs and soft drinks, major and national league sporting events, fast food, gasoline powered vehicles, and electrical grids powered by trainloads of coal and underground pipelines filled with oil. It is easier still to forget that certain resources won't last forever and that what is culturally popular in one age may not be in the next.
Seeing the rise of wind farms, the heavy investments in alternative fuel research programs, listening to some of the old timers starting to warn of a near future where we can no longer use certain resources (due to depletion and/or negative environmental consequences), it is clear that changes are on the visible horizon. Popular dietary habits will have to change to improve the health of the populace, and at some point as an attending, educated, stadium-filling public, we are going to have to decide whether cheering players toward a life full of long-term, negative, physical health consequences is really what we want to be entertained by.
As with every human being I have met in life, there was a lesson to be learned in every male and female represented in this exhibit, not to mention the stone from which these sculptures were carved. Reasons vary across the ages for why certain legacies go on to become immortal. It is important to remember that what we know to be true about any past is a reflection of what remains in the popularly-visible, all-seeing-eye of the public, for somewhere among the ash and dust left behind there are billions of stories that will never be told by the voices that once lived them.
(The marble busts that reside within the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma are currently on loan from Rome's Capitoline Museums through February 14th, 2016. This is the collection's only stop in the United States. CLICK HERE for more information.)