Sunday, June 21, 2015

commemorating failure

Hi Friends!

So I'm thinking about all the adventures Sasha and I have been on over the past 3 years (almost) here in Europe, and I am realizing how much we haven't told you about.  That's fine; we wouldn't want to make you too jealous, and it's more fun to have adventures than to write about them.  But I decided it would be fun to make a short post with snippets from various trips that share a common theme.  Failure.

The first one is a monument close to our house.  It is a memorial to a guy who accidentally was killed while hunting because he mis-loaded his gun.  I know, it's pretty tragic, actually.  It just strikes me as a bit funny, though, that all the other big stone memorials and such around here are to saints or famous dudes who were local rulers (or their wives) or Nobel prize winners, etc., and as far as I can tell, the only claim to fame of this guy was his unfortunate demise. I'm sorry for ya, Konrad, really I am.

"Here Konrad Diffmar from Wehrda died suddenly from his own misloading of a hunting rifle on the 3rd of January, 1979."
The Vasa; ancient boat, modern rigging
The second is much more impressive; so much so that there's an entire museum built around it, and it was one of the highlights of our trip to meet up with my parents in Stockholm, Sweden, in the summer of 2013.  The Vasa Museum.  The Vasa was a warship built in the 1600s that sank almost immediately on its maiden voyage.  Oops.  As far as we could tell, the king Gustavus Adolphus decided that he wanted a taller boat about half-way through construction, and the boat builders said "OK king, will do" but then the lower row of cannon ports was too close to the waterline, so when the ship leaned over, as sailboats are wont to do, it quickly filled with water and sank. Luckily, though, it sank in brackish water instead of the open ocean, which meant that instead of instantly being eaten by ship worms, the boat remained mostly intact for 300 or so years, when it was found by archaeologists, and was raised up off the seafloor in one piece, and was quickly treated with a polymer that prevents the wood from decaying too quickly, and they built an entire (highly climate controlled) museum around the boat.  It's really impressive how much of the detail is left of the carvings and such, so although the boat might have been a failure, the museum is pretty awesome, and the boat is quite a feat of conservation.

Intricate carvings on the ill-fated cannon ports
Boat-building failure, conservation success, and pretty darn cool as a thing to visit
The third is much more tragic; the Maginot line.  Between the world wars, France built a series of fortifications along its border with Germany, to prevent another German invasion.  Which totally failed because the Germans just went around it by attacking through Belgium.  Oops.  I guess it may have stopped a massive frontal assault over that border, but it was eventually attacked and overrun.  We went to an old casement turned into a memorial and museum on our way back from Switzerland this past spring. I'm not a historian, and can't tell you all the details about the battles and the war, and I can't even really speculate about what France should have done to repel attack.  It has got to be pretty hard with such a flat, long border. And (in terms of preventing the invasion via Belgium) deciding whether or not to build defenses along a border with an ally/non-aggressor. But once again, my opinion was only reinforced that war is a stupid waste of lives and resources.
Why not invest a lot of infrastructure, manpower and resources defending a long, flat, easily circumvented border?  Casemate turned museum.

But let me be honest, war is a stupid waste of resources and lives; as far as I'm concerned, all wars can go on the list of failures...because even if one side enters for "just" reasons, wouldn't it be better if they hadn't have to?

But, I'm not sure what we should take from these things.  Maybe that while we all strive to succeed, if you fail spectacularly enough, you can still be remembered for it?

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