Blood, Bones and Building; or, Love’s Labours

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Bones in the Paris Catcombs: “The randomness of history has effectively brought together the bones of both victims and executioners, such as Robespierre, Madame Élisabeth, Lucile Desmoulins, Fouquier-Tinville or Malesherbes.”

Aux armes, citoyens,
To arms, citizens,

Formez vos bataillons,
Form your battalions,

Marchons, marchons !
March, march!

Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !
Let an impure blood
Water our furrows!

La Marseillaise (National Anthem of France)

Indonesia, tanah airku
Indonesia, my land-and-water

Tanah tumpah darahku
The land for which I shed my blood

Di sanalah aku berdiri
There I will stand

Jadi pandu ibuku
Becoming a guide for my mother(land)

Indonesia Raya (National Anthem of Indonesia)

Great nations built from the bones of the dead
With mud and straw – blood and sweat
You know your worth when your enemies
Praise your architecture of aggression

Megadeth – Architecture of Agression

With painful labor you will give birth to children…
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return

The Book of Genesis (3:19)

What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

The Book of Genesis (4:10)

The Red Earth

Pardon the melodramatic tone, but I was thinking today (as I ran past a particularly huge and luxurious house in a particularly poor part of the city) about how we all – rich and poor – build our hovels / houses / castles / palaces / cities on foundations of waste and corpses. On the skulls of former enemies. On the blood of the martyrs. On the backs of slaves. By the sweat of our foreparents.** On the shoulders of giants.***

This is true for all people – always metaphorically true, and usually literally true too. Just as the water you drink today has certainly passsed through – has actually been part of – people all over the world who came before you, the ground you stand on and the food you eat contains what was once their bones and blood, and all the rest.

This is true of the cultures we inhabit too: our social and intellectual worlds exist (for better or worse) on the rich hummus of what they left behind.

So happy Labour Day! Go forth and sweat**** for better.


*This is the literal meaning of Tanah tumpah darahku – Indonesians usually explain it as “the land of my birth.”
**“Foreparents” – yuck – but I didn’t think forefathers really cut it.
***And – going forward – on geologically significant deposits of chicken bones

****And bleed?!

1 thought on “Blood, Bones and Building; or, Love’s Labours”

  1. Thought-provoking May Day reflection! Is this quote relevant too? ‘The life of a creature is in the blood’ (Leviticus 17:11; cf. John 6:53-54).

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