Gongol.com Archives: April 2024

Brian Gongol

April 3, 2024

News Lost and found

A metal seal once used to mark a Papal decree has been discovered in Poland, more than 650 years after it was lost in transit. It is a fair assumption that the matter contained under the seal was thought to be important in its time; after all, it had been issued by the Pope, who was then (as now) a tremendously influential individual. ■ The decree itself is lost to history, and the artifact so recently discovered is partially missing. It's not even clear who was Pope when it was issued, sometime between 1303 and 1352. On the early end of that window, it could have been Benedict XI -- a full five Popes Benedict before the present day. ■ That should probably give us a lesson in the present, when people obsess over trending news and "going viral". Everyone gets only a limited time on Earth, and even the entire lives of some of the most notable people on the planet are often little more than a historical footnote. It's not nihilism to acknowledge that; it's merely historical literacy. Putting some perspective on the scurrying and attention-seeking of the present is just an application of reasonable humility. ■ And yet, even if much of what appears to be vitally important now is likely to be forgotten some centuries hence, perhaps that makes the thrust of our behavior even more important. What's written in a papal bull may be of no enduring consequence. But whether an individual chooses to treat a child with nurturing patience, a stranger with grace, a friend with timely concern, or a parent with honor really does push the world in the right direction. ■ Those encounters are often remembered -- usually only within one generation, but their consequences multiply as they become the lessons taught to the next generation and the virtues held up as models for emulation. Countless biographies (and eulogies) have pivoted on significant turning points in life brought about by a single person's good works. And many others have hinged on avoidable pain imposed by others as well. Those acts may rarely leave artifacts behind for people to uncover with metal detectors, but in the grand scheme of things, they probably matter a lot more than those that do.

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