What’s the Real Worth of the Dead and Extinct?
Does our life have value for us after we die? Does our life continue to matter even after death? Once we are dead, whatever value our death acquires, we are not there to see it and yet a lot of times death-effect is real and makes someone / something a lot more worthy than it ever was.
This is the premise of the entire art world, people become collectors, dealers, sellers of art of artists who have died long ago. Art dealers are minting millions by selling art which probably no one even looked at while the artist was alive, in fact some might have even mocked the artwork.
Vincent van Gogh, for instance, hardly received any recognition during his lifetime, with his paintings described as being too dark and lacking life. He created around 900 paintings in total but was only able to sell one. Death-effect, now he is one of the most famous artists and his Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $82.5 million.
Frank Kafka, a very disturbed writer who lived a very lonely life, filled with misery and depression. He died very early and hardly published anything that he wrote. Most of his writings are dark, disturbing and some might even say depressing. When he died, he told his closest friend to not publish anything that he wrote and yet his friend edited and published his work, the most famous being “The Castle”. Today Frank Kafka is counted among the best writers of his time, even an award has been named after him.
Fame is not limited to only artists and writers, death-effect spreads to even animals and monuments.
Consider Taj Mahal for example, one of the seven wonders of the world. What makes it so unique, why tourists all over the world travel to Agra to visit it. It’s primarily the story behind it, a rich king who loved his wife so much that he made a complete palace over the tomb of his dead wife to remember her even after death. Today, it’s a symbol of love and will be remembered forever.
Dodo, an extinct bird, a very ordinary looking bird is the national bird of Mauritius. Why would a country make an extinct bird as their national bird? I’m not sure but it’s the story behind how the bird got extinct which made it so special, a flightless bird that was only found on the small island of Mauritius, became extinct when humans destroyed it’s habitat. Go through the streets of Mauritius and you will find all the souvenir shops filled with trinkets made in the honour of the extinct bird.
Why are all these things so valuable now?
I thought a lot about what is the value of death, why the dead are more important than the living and the only conclusion I could draw is that the dead cannot come back. An artist who is dead, he/she drew what they could in their lifetime and they will never come back to draw the same work again. Today, that work is very valuable because it’s never going to be drawn again.
Shah Jahan chopped the hands of all the people who helped construct the Taj Mahal so that none of them could go and make another Taj Mahal. Maybe that’s why Taj Mahal became so famous and none of the other palaces who were probably a lot prettier than the Taj, made the cut to the 7 wonders.
Dodo and Dinosaurs are remembered so much because they are never coming back. Movies are made on dinosaurs, not elephants.
Possessions of the dead acquire value after death because the dead cannot come back and reclaim it. An artist from the 19th century, who probably dropped paint by accident on the portrait he was painting, his painting will probably sell today in millions with a story that the blotch on the face is the gruesome dark side of the artist. People would even believe the narrative because the artist can never come back and explain that it’s nothing but a simple mistake.