“What if we just erase 2016. What if we pretend it never happened. What if we just cross it out of the history books and tear it out of all the calendars.” – Bystanders, New York City, 2016 AD
“May this year not be placed in the reckoning of years! May it’s number be taken down from its peg in Enlil’s temple, and may its name be unspoken, to far off days, to other days, and to the end of time.” – The Lament for Ur, Ancient Mesopotamia, 2004 BC
This is the gift of being human. That across the unfathomable expanses of time, we can speak and be spoken to, hear and be heard. Across four thousand years, this writer whose name we will never know can tell us that he understands, that they have been there, that she cares.
“The sense of that country vanished- the people mourned. The country’s reason was swallowed up as if by a bog- the people mourn… My goddess of reason, your country weeps for you, your land like a child lost in the streets searches for you! Be off like an oxe to your byre, like a sheep to your fold, like a young child to your chamber, return to your people! Oh my goddess, to your house, so that the the King of the Gods may say “Enough of this madness! And restore you to your place in the world!”
Four thousand years ago, this person asked themselves how the world could ever go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. Four thousand years ago, this person asked what was even the point in human decency and goodness and light anymore when such terrible things could happen anyway. And their words, their cry for light in dark; those words have outlived every war and every battle, every call to arms and every empire, every conqueror and every conquest.
This is how far humanity can echo. Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if only one remembers to turn on the light, and this is how long a light kindled in darkness can burn. This is the true power of the written word and of the human voice laid bare before you, This is a gift to you, written in the tears of all your ancestors who believed that day would never come again. Across the abyssal void of time, it is written, in tears and in clay and in papyri and in ink and in a hundred million voices who awoke each morning and felt and wept and dreamed and loved this world every bit as deeply as you do, “This is not the end. I have been there. You are not alone. So long as you are human, you are not alone,”