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Throughout history, one thing has been certain: change. Consider, for instance, civilizations. Throughout the years many civilizations have come into existence and fallen away into obscurity. Some of them, however, were so great that our modern society can still learn many things; this is the innate value of history. For instance, consider the provided allegory on the rise and fall of a great empire that ruled the land from 500 ce to 1500 ce. In this brief paper, we will discuss the allegory's meaning with reference to the cyclical nature of our existence, the human condition, and dynamic growth and expansion.
Cyclical Nature of Our Existence
Everything in the world rises and falls. The sun comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening. The weather changes four times a year, every year. People are born and they die. Clearly, the notion of a cyclical existence is very pronounced. This same cyclical nature is present in the provided allegory. The great empire that ruled the land started at a low point, grew to the highest position on the vertical hierarchy, and then fell into relative obscurity. For years, the allegory says that things remained static only to be followed by consequent growth. These are strong implications for our present day environment.
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First, consider the global economy. In the beginning of the 21st century, the global economy was booming (United Nations). The United States had the largest economy, wages were on the rise, and unemployment was down (United Nations). Today, the economy remains depressed and many markets are shrinking (Ryan). This same trend occurred in the United States in the 1920's during the great depression (Ryan). In many ways, the US economy and global economy can be described in terms of cyclical expansion and contraction (United Nations).
Second, consider the world that we live in. Every day, the Earth rotates 360 degrees on its vertical axis. Every year, the Earth goes through a full ellipse of its vertical axis. From the day that we are born, we are in an environment that goes up and down on a regular basis, much like a mathematical sin wave (Jones). Clearly, our physical and constructed environments have cyclical patterns. However, what do these patterns mean? First, it is only reasonable that society recognizes these patterns. Governments should budget for recessions by building financial and material reserves. Individuals should have a savings account to cover them during low periods. Second, as individuals, what is the purpose of life? If everything is cyclical, if we are born only to die, why are we to live? This question has very important consequences. In my opinion, although life is cyclical and that there is an apparent regular systemic variation, individuals have the opportunity to control how they function within the system.
The Human Condition
The human condition refers to the experience of humans in a social, cultural, and personal context (Godel). The provided allegory is a concrete example of the human condition in all three areas.
In terms of society, the allegory provides valuable insight. Societies have always tended to stratify themselves vertically. There is usually a leader and some type of class system. The provided allegory alludes to this in the phrase, "as men struggled to restore the former glories to the land." In my opinion, this struggle denotes some type of grass roots movement to rebuild a broken system. There must have been a leader or champion of this movement, even if he or she was not well known. The leaders could very well have been a group of noble individuals with honorable intentions. What does this mean? In my opinion, this has implications for all persons in existence today. In recognizing the natural dynamics of society, one can learn to function and be more productive within our society.
In terms of culture, the rise and fall of the allegory's great empire had significant consequences to maintaining the flow of information and progress. For instance, consider the Byzantine Empire that was actually a great empire that existed between 500 ce and 1500 ce (Adena). In my opinion, there is again a strong relationship between the allegory and the actual Byzantine Empire. Although the Byzantines were an authoritarian culture and often thought of as barbarians, the Byzantines made significant progress in the realm of culture (Adena). For instance, consider their language; it evolved considerably and is even considered a foundation of our numerical system today (Adena). There were advancements across every level of society. Unfortunately, when the empire fell, many of these advancements were lost or not retained by consequent generations (Adena). The culture took a step backwards for many years, as evidenced in the allegory by the reference to the dark ages. What does this mean? It is inevitable that the world as we know it will eventually change drastically. This requires every level of society to take action in preserving our way of life, our thoughts, etc., for continued cultural growth beyond our time.
In terms of the individual, the allegory provides valuable insights into the drive of our human population. The ability to survive the dark ages and yet again return to a high point on the cycle shows that humans have some type of internal drive towards productivity. Without this internal drive, there is no logical reason why humans would return to a society of greatness. In addition, the cyclical pattern indicates that the rise and fall of cultures, society, and populations is not attributable to chance. This internal drive is most likely what also spurs the continued dynamic growth that we see in today's world.
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Dynamic Growth and Expansion
In the allegory, when the great empire fell, the world also fell to darkness. It was not until several years later that the torch was lit once again and progress continued. Specifically, the allegory states that "new wealth, power, social organization, and ideas came to dominate the land." In my opinion, this notion of progress has dynamically continued to this day. However, the thought of a dark age does have important consequences for today's modern world.
There is still potential of losing all progress and having to start over. First, our notion of humanity is limited to this physical planet. If something were to happen in the solar system, which is realistically plausible, our planet and everything we have accomplished would likely be lost. Second, humans remain separated in factions that war against each other. The Byzantine Empire likely fell for a number of different reasons; there is a good chance that one of them is probably war (Adena). Today, strong world leaders such as the US remain engaged in war activities around the world. Consider, for instance, recent fighting between North Korea and South Korea (Unknown).
This violence has the potential to significantly impact the world. Strong weapons, such as the nuclear bomb or hydrogen bomb, could single handedly wipe out an entire country. Clearly, there are realistic ways that our dynamic growth could come to a sudden end. However, working in our favor is the interconnectedness of our modern reality. For instance, consider the Internet. If anything happens to a single country, its information would not be suddenly and completely lost, which would allow growth to continue in other parts of the world. This is very different than the 500 ce - 1500 ce when a single large disaster such as a fire could destroy a population or library's information forever. Overall, it is clear that the world's connectedness will most likely continue to propagate dynamic growth but there are other factors brewing that could potentially disrupt the system in a big way.
The provided allegory has many different meanings. First, the allegory provides insight into the nature of life. Many things in our existence fluctuate on a cyclical basis. The rise and fall of the great empire is an excellent example of this type of fluctuation. Second, the allegory has important consequences for the human condition. The ability to persevere through the dark ages and return to dynamic growth is testament to the will of the human spirit. Third, although dynamic growth has continued rapidly for some time, there is no guarantee that the growth will continue. There are factors in play that could suddenly stop the growth in a dark-age type manner. Overall, examining history and making determinations is an important aspect of the growth model.