One of the most tragic effects of time and decline, in my opinion, is the loss of the fruits of a once thriving society. I feel more comfortable thinking of the passage of time as leading to progress—things getting better, safer, smarter, more interesting— as time goes on. Studying the growth, flowering, and eventual decline of any number of civilizations will quickly makes it clear that often, if not always eventually; this becomes no longer true.
Take a look at the difference in what is possible in building currently, as opposed to what was done in the past. We’re unable to create the vast, intricate marblework showcased in many centuries old buildings today, a fact that boggles my mind. That kind of material is just TOO expensive to be purchased, period. And that kind of skilled, manual labor has also risen so much in cost that it is also untenable for the contemporary builder. Isn’t that weird? We have these tabernacles around us today, in our great cities and used by contemporary citizens, which we no longer have the possibility to create.
Clearly changes in our value system have partially led to this predicament, and the individual is valued more highly, and rewarded more justly, for his contribution. The slave labor that made the pyramids possible is nothing to be proud of. But then again, in retrospect, it is all of human kind that is rewarded in the end by the undertaking of these vast projects. Our world would indeed be less grand without these ancient testaments.
Reflecting on that circumstance makes me much more afraid for the attrition of other kinds of current flowering in our society. What will we lose next? It makes me so uncomfortable to see that in order to make progress in our understanding of the value of the people in our society, we have had to leave some of our greatness behind.