The Skull of This Our Life

There are a couple of stretches along First Avenue in Opelika where some buildings (including a factory) were demolished not too long after I first came to the area, and they’ve been slowly clearing away the rubble ever since. And I do means slowly, as in: with each passing year some slight alteration to the landscape is perceptible. The progress has been glacial (if anything under the Alabama sun can truly be called “glacial”).

But lately I’ve noticed a very slight acceleration in the rubble-clearing process, reminding me that these ruins will not endure forever. So I’ve kept meaning to take photos, but I never seem to have my camera with me when I pass by. But now that I have a smartphone I always have a camera with me, so today was the day.

Voltairine de Cleyre thought the ruins of modern industrial civilisation would compare unfavourably with those of past civilisations:

“And if some archaeologist of a long future shall some day unbury the bones of our civilization, where ashes or flood shall have entombed it, he will see this frightful idea stamped on the factory walls he shall uncover, with their rows and rows of square light-holes, their tons upon tons of toothed steel, grinning out of the skull of this our life; its acres of silk and velvet, its square miles of tinsel and shoddy. No glorious marbles of nymphs and fawns, whose dead images are yet so sweet that one might wish to kiss them still; no majestic figures of winged horses, with men’s faces and lions’ paws casting their colossal symbolism in a mighty spell forward upon Time, as those old stone chimeras of Babylon yet do; but meaningless iron giants, of wheels and teeth, whose secret is forgotten, but whose business was to grind men up, and spit them out as housefuls of woven stuffs, bazaars of trash, wherethrough other men might wade. The statues he shall find will bear no trace of mythic dream or mystic symbol; they will be statues of merchants and ironmasters and militia-men, in tailored coats and pantaloons and proper hats and shoes.”

And maybe so. Certainly some “bazaars of trash” are evident in these photos. But there’s a certain solitary grandeur evident in some of them as well.

Pics here, here, here, here, here, and here.

One Response to The Skull of This Our Life

  1. Roderick June 20, 2019 at 4:44 pm #

    Today as I drove past the Opelika Ruins, I saw someone taking photos.

    In the past decade I’ve never seen anyone taking photos there before. I’ve started a trend!

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