The recent revelation regarding the destruction of the Mosul Museum struck me deeply. It wasn’t so much the devastating loss of cultural history as much as the realization that I’ve become numb to it. In most cases I feel some heartache, but by the time I’m dropping my kids off at the bus stop, I’m on to more pressing things, like work, fixing my car, or planting my garden. What I really couldn’t shake today is the inability to see in one headline the constant and perpetual attacks on art, culture, history and science. It really is mind numbing when you look at any feeble effort to summarize what we’ve lost over the history of humankind.
Images of the Mosul Museum brought to mind the horrifying images of the Taliban obliterating the 6th century Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001. Perhaps as a diversion, I checked on their status and was delighted to discover that they’ve been digitally restored through 3-D projection. Not only are they beautiful, but I couldn’t help but think that they are flashing a proverbial middle finger while shoving a bit of cultural heritage back down the throats of any Taliban residing in the surrounding valley.
Be it The Grapes of Wrath, Darwin’s theories or the Mosul Museum, I can’t think of a religion that hasn’t at some point in its history used ignorance, and its close relative, fear, in an effort to destroy scientific discovery, history, art and culture in the pursuit of “enlightenment.” While The Wall Street Journal has called for the destruction of cultural heritage to be elevated to the level of a war crime, I find the Afghan people’s response to be more creative and likely far more effective than any law. To me, the 3-D projection of the Bamiyan Buddhas serves as a, “museum of ignorance.” It documents the past and educates our future. Given that no system of belief is immune to the destructive nature of ignorance, perhaps we need museums of ignorance all over the world? In these museums we can celebrate the restored or replicated works of cultural heritage that have been, or will be, destroyed by the religious zealots of our world. When something is destroyed we elevate it to greater heights for all to see. They can serve as that proverbial middle finger to the zealots, while serving as a reminder of what we’ve lost, but will never forget.