Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Preservation of Monumental Texts

The Georgia Guidestones were vandalized in early December. The mysterious Guidestones were built in 1980 and are inscribed in eight languages with tenets usually described as "new age." Randall Sullivan writes in Wired Magazine:

the stones had been splattered with polyurethane and spray-painted with graffiti, including slogans like "Death to the new world order." This defacement was the first serious act of vandalism in the Guidestones' history, but it was hardly the first objection to their existence.

(For pictures of the vandalism and a list of the tenets, along with paranoid commentary, see Prison Planet). Sullivan thinks the unknown people behind the Guidestones

knew what they were doing: The monument is a highly engineered structure that flawlessly tracks the sun. It also manages to engender endless fascination, thanks to a carefully orchestrated aura of mystery. And the stones have attracted plenty of devotees to defend against folks who would like them destroyed. Clearly, whoever had the monument placed here understood one thing very well: People prize what they don't understand at least as much as what they do.

Maybe, but I suspect they were mistaken in thinking that monuments survive due to their mystery and durable materials. Monuments rather survive due to social structures (political, religious or cultural) that guard and maintain them. As the Long Now Blog notes:

As for the Guidestones’ likelihood to survive, it is interesting to note that the surrounding mystery has been both a help and a hindrance. By instilling wonder and encouraging curiosity, the secretive creators have generated a good deal of interest in the monument. They’ve also, however, allowed some blanks to be filled by people offended by the little that is discernible about their agenda.

They note that interest in preserving and maintaining the monument seems to be come primarily from business interests represented by the local county tourism office.

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