Thoughts on Pompeii and Impermanence


I saw Pompeii the other day. It was neat. I learned a lot of things and thought about time and life and death and history.

Sometimes I find it alarming that everything is so ephemeral. The people who lived in Pompeii all died almost two thousand years ago, and as cool as it is to think about what their lives must’ve been like, I’ll never really know. No matter how much I learn or how hard I imagine, I’ll never come close to understanding what life back then was actually like. Sometimes that makes me sad. So many people have existed and then not existed again, and then there were only the people who remembered them. The Pompeiians existed, and then died, and all that was left was people’s memories of them. Eventually, the generation that remembered them died and all that was left was the stories that that generation had told. A few tiny snippets of a full, rich history. Then that generation died, and all that was left was the few stories that had been passed down that far, with details lost or distorted in each retelling. At that point, the world’s memory of Pompeii was so distant. Yet we are now, unfathomably, maybe fifty times further distant. We have no idea who the Pompeiians were.

Someday I will die, and if I’m lucky two thousand years from now some pieces of me may be left. But in all likelihood no one will know who I was, and none of my stories will be left. No one will really understand what the world I lived in was like. There may be ruins from today’s world left behind—half-remembered, half-understood remains of a time so different that no one could hope to really comprehend what made it the way it was. Old black-and-white photographs of a time full of sharpness, color, and life.

Sometimes, I think about all this and feel lost—meaningless and alone against the vastness of space and time. If the Pompeiians existed so long ago, and there is so little of them left, what does it even mean that they existed? What will it mean that I existed after another two thousand years have gone by? Lately, though, I’ve been thinking on a new perspective, one that has made me happy. That’s why I wanted to write this post today. I wanted to talk about why all of the above is kind of cool. It’s not a completely new idea, but it’s new for me, and it’s made some of the moments I’ve had recently a lot sweeter.

Yesterday, I kissed a girl in front of the Colosseum, and I thought about time and life and death and history. In two thousand years, probably no one alive will know that kiss ever happened. Even if they do, they won’t know why or where or when. Not really. They won’t know all the little things that made me up at that moment, that made up the world as it was and put me at that particular place in it, that made all the thoughts I have had in the my life coalesce into the moment where I asked a beautiful girl if I could kiss her.

No one will ever know that again. That kiss will always be mine.

Pompeii is really cool, and I would love to know how they lived, but no one will ever know that again. The knowledge of how they lived is amazing, and it’s entirely theirs. It always has been, and always will be, only theirs.

Yesterday I kissed a girl, and that kiss always has been, and always will be, only ours.