Thursday, July 06, 2006


Paris, Day 2.

Visited the Louvre today. Wow. It is, I would say, about 3 or 4 times the size of the Met in New York. It spans a full city block, and has 4 levels. It has no less than 2 Metro stations servicing it (at opposite ends of the building) on the same line. So imagine the size.

Let me give you another idea: I arrived at around 10:30 a.m. at the opposite end from the entrance. By 11 a.m. I was inside (buying tickets is child's play and wastes no time as the tickets are vended by automated machines scattered all over the reception lobby under I.M. Pei's pyramid) and started walking the basement floor.

I came out at quarter to 6 p.m., just shortly before closing time. This was, without stopping to read the captions (one exception only--the captions at the stone of the code of Hammurabi. One's got to read the translations of the inscriptions on that one!)--the time was basically what it took to traverse the large block of buildings, four times, and the stairs, plus a small lunch/water break in-between, at a fairly energetic pace (or what could be construed as one after four floors and 7 hours of nonstop meandering!).

Incredible. Now, just as an exercise, with 35,000 works of incalculable value in terms of historical worth, execution talent, and culture, can you imagine for a second, what would be lost if someone dropped a bomb or a roof collapsed or even just one room or collection in the Louvre were otherwise destroyed?

Can you imagine the loss in the context for humanity? How much poorer would we be? When you lose something that has no price, not because its value in terms of materials or even raw labor is so high, but because a Donatello, a Michelangelo, a DaVinci is irreproducible and irreplaceable. Once gone, it is lost forever, because imagine the combinations of millions of cells and chains of DNA required to create another virtuoso painter carbon copy of the one producing the work that was lost, plus the combinations of millions of seconds of lived experience and education required to produce the talent and inspiration and ability, plus the millions of other peripheral circumstances subsequent to the creation of the work that occured to render it even more valuable over hundreds of years of history--the context, that is--for the possibility of the same work to ever appear again just like the lost one sometime in the future.

Scary thought, huh?

When the Taliban destroyed the 50 meter tall statues of Buddha carved into the mountain of Bamiyan in Afghanistan just over 5 years ago, did they know how much poorer they would be? Did they know how much poorer we all, as humans, would be? Did we? Could we have stopped them?

And if you think about it, a 50 meter statue generates a flurry of news, even if it is in an "unknown" poor country we will probably never even visit anyway, so who really cares, right, there are always the pictures, but think about this, when something of such incalculable worth, for humanity, can be destroyed and obliterated so easily, without realizing what we've lost, isn't it a little bit the same, but different, because this next one is destroyed even easier, when a young life full of hope is extinguished, off in some war-torn country somewhere, whose name we don't even know how to pronounce?

2 comments:

Torsten said...

Hi, Elisa,

so hear a little thought experiment for you. Imagaine someone would threaten either to obliterate the Louvre, without injuring anyone, or to kill one person, which would you choose?
Or if you could choose which artifacts to take with you and the rest of humanity to a new planet, which would they be, and when would the Louvre turn up?
Ah, I hope this puts the importance of the Louvre to humanity into some due and proper perspective.
Happy travels!

Elisa said...

Hey, Torsten. Why, from what I said in the last sentence it should be clear that I would save the person, of course, even at the cost of the Louvre (a high cost!--as I also said). But this is not because killing is "morally wrong", or "evil", or anything of the sort, but simply because (and this is the point I was trying to make in that last sentence) when someone dies, when we kill, or otherwise end a life (and with it all its hope and potential to contribute to humanity for the betterment of *all* of us) that wouldn't end otherwise, we become, as humans, much the poorer.

Hope this clarifies.