The Most Significant Monument
When it comes to awareness of their location, humans are not at the top of the animal kingdom. We are not blessed with an internal compass like many species of bird. We cannot follow scent trails to a particular location.
Even with all our tools and maps and GPS technology, we humans still have a tendency toward getting lost. I have never heard of a bear or a shark getting as hopelessly disoriented as a person can. We rely primarily on our sense of sight, which is why people use landmarks to help them know where they are.
Because we would be lost without them, we give special significance to these landmarks. Mountains become sacred homes of the gods. Streams and rivers take on magical properties. Even the most insignificant pebble will have a story attached to it, if that pebble helps someone find their way. Landmarks, and their significance, are essential to the human psyche. We couldn’t survive without them.
Monuments are artificial landmarks constructed by humans. As a result, monuments have special significance attached to them as well. I suspect the first monuments were built simply so people would have something to look at from far away. The significance was a later development. Ever since, monuments have become as important to us as mountains and streams.
The great monuments, from the Pyramids at Giza to cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde to Gothic cathedrals in Europe, represent the greatest achievements of human civilization. There are many engineering wonders that are marvelous to behold. Monuments represent more than just our ability to build things, though. They also represent the uniquely human ability to make things important.
I do not mean to brag, but I have seen many of the monuments that are said to define Western civilization. My eyes have looked at the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, and the ancient rocks at Stonehenge. It is amazing to witness first-hand the work and effort required to build these things. They are truly impressive, but in truth can never have the same impact on my mind as a much less grand structure.
The great monuments of the world are definitely worth seeing, but they will never strike me as much as the image of my childhood home. It is not monumental in size or style, but monumental in its familiarity. I have spent the vast majority of my life living in that house. While it is not necessarily impressive, at least not in the way a giant stone structure is, for me it produces the same feeling of awe. That a monument defines a city, or a region, or a people is extremely significant. To me, though, nothing can ever match the significance of home.
I guess that is why I was so upset when my Dad added a garage to the side of the house. I know, it is his property, but to me it is like attaching a parking structure to the Pantheon. It is abominable, but suppose I will get used to it.