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question 07: how is history made active?

after a day

notes on evolution

A building is typically designed as a single organism. Body parts, organ groups, infrastructural systems that all perform in a specific way that services the organism. But, as with all life, those parts and groups and systems fail, and the organism dies.

But sometimes a building becomes a species. And, you know, Charles Darwin has this theory that species evolve because of adaptation. Wikipedia says adaptation is the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat.

The coliseum was born as an amphitheatre. A great stadium. Various external forces prompted it to become a place of worship, and then a cemetery, and then the walls of a housing community. And like a real species, it listened. It kept breathing, and it adapted.

Today the sun shines on a tourist attraction where a great stadium once stood. Because today, the external forces told it that Rome was changing, and it needed to change too. But its current life, though less performative than in the past, does not mean it’s dying. Because someday in the future, external forces will tell it that Rome is changing, and that it needs to change too.

Because the sun that set two thousand years ago is the same sun that set yesterday. And even though the person who took this photo two thousand years ago took it a little bit differently than the person who took it yesterday, they saw the same arches, the same curvature, the same light. In two thousand more years, the person who takes this photo will take it a different way entirely. (Maybe he will take it right before suiting up for an epic game of laser tag, because in the time between now and then, a uniform whimsy will erupt in the hearts of the Roman population, a whimsy perhaps ignited by the realization that the city’s ruins and alleys are perfect for an activity like laser tag. But of course the municipality couldn’t let this habit run rampant, so where’s some closed, concentrated place that epitomizes this Roman perfection? Coliseum, duh. The only people that even “used” it were just tourists anyway.)

(I apologize. that last bout of Rome-as-a-laser-tag-playground wishful thinking is not included in the minimum 150-word word count.)

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