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Will there be a rebirth of humanity that will allow us to avoid the end of humanity?

For millennia, and perhaps since its very origins, humanity has walked on the edge of the abyss. And in times like ours, we even look into the abyss and feel vertigo because, as Nietzsche already explained, “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” (Beyond Good and Evil, 146 ).

But sometimes, even after understanding that the greatest abyss is the one within us, sparks arise, mere moments of hope that invite us to think that a rebirth, a new launch of humanity is possible. And perhaps the Herculaneum manuscripts, burned almost two millennia ago by the eruption of Vesuvius, are the beginning.

In 1752, some 800 manuscripts were found in Herculaneum, near its better-known sister city, Pompeii. But only now, using new technology and artificial intelligence, have experts begun to read those manuscripts. In fact, only a single word has been read: “purple,” which may be a reference to the color, clothing, or the official wearing a cap or a hat with that color.

Reading that single word required 20 years of work for experts at the University of Kentucky, who stated that from now on the process of reading that and other manuscripts will be accelerated.

Since the manuscripts were part of the personal library of the philosopher Philodemus (a follower of Epicurus), it is believed that among the manuscripts would be found numerous now-lost works by ancient Greek and Latin authors, such as the tragedies of Sophocles or the books of Livy. on the history of Rome, or the writings of Lucretius or Catullus, among others.

In that context, Dr. Robert Fowler, a papyrus expert at the University of Bristol in England, recently indicated in an interview with the New York Times that reading Philodemus' library “would transform our knowledge of the ancient world in ways we can hardly imagine.”

In fact, he said, the only possible comparison is the rediscovery of ancient manuscripts that led to the European Renaissance during the 15th and 16th centuries (although it began two centuries earlier), giving birth to modernity, an era that is now ending and from which we are leaving.

It may be an exaggeration to say that reading a single word written in Greek in a manuscript burned 2,000 years ago can lead to a rebirth of humanity, that is, to a new way of understanding ourselves, others, the planet, and the universe. But perhaps this small step is the proverbial mustard seed that will later grow to a large size.

Perhaps if we all look seriously at the past, rediscovering all that wisdom that did not reach us (whether intentionally or due to the whims of history), will help us rethink the consequences of our actions and our way of thinking and, therefore, to change them.

Obviously, one could argue that if all existing wisdom has not yet managed to bring about that change, neither will the books of Philodemus. However, a spark was lit, a step was taken, and hope was reborn.


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