Messages from a Lost Civilization

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Minsk, Belarus – June 2014

The birch forests and rolling hills give way to an expanse of austere, uniform structures. The proletarian dwellings in Minsk lack the dinginess of counterparts in neighboring countries. At least on the outside.

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Color appears as one penetrates deeper into this concrete orchard. (There is too much order to be a wilderness.) Cryptic depictions adorn several of the monoliths. They are lined up along the side of the boulevard like sentinels. Stoic, lofty. I turn to stare at them as we pass.

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Two days later, I find myself standing before them. I lift my eyes and try to decipher the vibrant hieroglyphics. Messages from a lost civilization.

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What is it that they want to tell us?

I see the mythical being, the one who reached for the stars. The other figures are prototypes of utopia. Androgynous, transcendent. Their aloof expressions are tinged with desolation. How do you fill the empty space of time if there is nothing left to strive for?

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Across the boulevard, a much more recent arrival. It has come to rest before them, as if conjured from another dimension. A shimmering crystal. Vessel of knowledge.

Where do civilizations go when they vanish? Catastrophe has a way of keeping the fascination alive. Assimilation into a reorganized and diluted society is a much more effective form of extinction. Better to fade away than to burn out.

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