Looking around the buildings of Kirkwall today I started to think about ancient times. Not only the lives of people in Orkney five hundred years ago but also of three thousand years ago.
This chain of islands has so much history to offer. Of course so have many places all over the world. It’s just that sometimes I forget to stop and notice. I guess it’s the same for everyone. Living takes up all the time and space I have. Busy going here, doing that, meeting them. Finding a way to keep a roof over my head. Wanting to ensure my daughter and I can eat, be safe, or warm and dry. Looking for a purpose and meaning in my life. Was it the same in ancient times?
I looked around the Cathedral today. There were plenty of grave stones with memento mori inscriptions. The reminder that death comes to us all. At the Earl’s Palace the shell of the building remained. The Earl himself only enjoyed it for a few years as he was forced to give it up in 1609. To the Archbishop who had a palace already. The Earl was later executed for rebellion. Surrounding these monuments are a network of small streets made up of little terraced houses lining the harbour. Two big cruise ships had docked at the ferry port. So the streets were also full of visitors being shepherded around the town by the tour guides.
All of us taking in the ancient buildings. The quirky town. Trying to get a feel for a life gone by. Photographing the graves of the long dead.
I wondered what people in those burial plots thought about the Afterlife. Certainly there had been a shift from the Viking tradition of many gods and goddesses to Christianity which focused one one god alone. Then in later centuries the disputes between Catholic and Protestant factions. But I was thinking much further back. What about the people who had a Neolithic existence on these islands? Our ancient ancestors may have had a goddess tradition. The purpose or meaning of their lives could have been from a different perspective than mine.
But I am sure that they also lived with the same focus as me. Keeping a roof over their heads, finding food and warmth, sharing with others. So I know they also had to work to make these things happen. And they also died. Their lives had an ending too. I find that the most grounding of all thoughts. We are continuing a basic pattern that has lasted for many thousands of years. I doubt that it will be destroyed overnight. Whatever happens the remains of ancient times remind us of the enduring human experience. To live, to love, to reproduce and to die. And to pass something on for the next generation.
Because we endure. What ancient monuments show is that we survive. They are a powerful reminder to me of the hope I have for humanity. We can overcome anything.
Day 599 of my blogging challenge