Years and years ago (1979 to be precise) I bought a book by David Macaulay called “Motel of the Mysteries.” I found it fascinating and funny at the same time.
It is the year 4022; all of the ancient country of Usa has been buried under many feet of detritus from a catastrophe that occurred back in 1985. Imagine, then, the excitement that Howard Carson, an amateur archaeologist at best, experienced when in crossing the perimeter of an abandoned excavation site he felt the ground give way beneath him and found himself at the bottom of a shaft, which, judging from the DO NOT DISTURB sign hanging from an archaic doorknob, was clearly the entrance to a still-sealed burial chamber. Carson’s incredible discoveries, including the remains of two bodies, one of then on a ceremonial bed facing an altar that appeared to be a means of communicating with the Gods and the other lying in a porcelain sarcophagus in the Inner Chamber, permitted him to piece together the whole fabric of that extraordinary civilization. (Amazon.com)
The most hilarious picture in the whole book was from the bathroom in the motel, which had been interpreted as the inner sanctum of the inhabitants’ spiritual life. The drawing showed one of the archaeologists wearing ceremonial earrings, a ceremonial necklace, and the sacred headdress. That picture is indelibly etched in my mind. A second picture shows Carson trying to “communicate with their god.”
Well, I had occasion to recall “Motel of the Mysteries” the other day when I was sitting at my desk. Often when I’m hitting a blank wall and can’t think of a thing to write, I’ll idly pick up this golden apple that sits there, take the top off and hold it up to my nose. It’s actually a candle of my favorite Avon scent from decades ago (Unforgettable) and the scent is still so strong it takes me back to a very happy time in my life.
As I sat there looking at it and all the other special things I’ve collected on my desk, I had the fleeting thought, I wonder what people would think of all this stuff 1000 years from now if they found this room exactly like this? When a space is important to us we give studied consideration to what we keep there. Especially on dresser tops or in bathrooms. If someone came into these “sacred” rooms in our homes like in Macaulay’s book, would they truly think these surfaces were shrines covered in talismans? After all, the articles one might find there could easily be used to endow ourselves with beauty and good fortune by the presence of benevolent and protecting spirits — called cosmetic companies! (Brushes, combs, perfume, lipstick, curlers…). 😀
It was just a silly thought, but it made me smile and consider the “stuff” I’ve gathered around me and wonder what impression it would give “archaeologists” in the future of what my life was like!
What about you? What articles adorn YOUR shrines? What impressions would they give of your life?