Beyond the magnificent wonder of the various objects related to Egyptian art (for more than a century, these objects are on display in some of the most beautiful museums in the world, and can be seen today in a magnificent temporary exhibition, which is touring Europe), the global craze for this art is the sign of something else: our passion for the long term. This passion, however, is threatened today by our destructive selfishness, the precariousness of our society, and the very uncertainty weighing on the survival of the human species.
Indeed, a primary function of Egyptian art is to prepare the immortality of its civilization, through their pharaohs and leaders. And it is indeed our failures that have prevented us from no longer guaranteeing to them their immortality or ours.
In the end, these objects, some of which date back more than four millennia, raise a terrible question: what will remain of us in four thousand years? Or even more crudely: will there still be a humanity in the year 6000?
The Egyptians had no doubt about that. They certainly had a sense of what disaster was, having faced the floods of the Nile or the invasions from the South and East. But they did not doubt their immortality—in one world or another. And they did everything they could to prepare it. Life, for them, was only a way to prepare for immortality.
More generally, our ancestors, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese, Indians, and so many others, of whom we have traces today, probably did not think precisely of the humans who would follow them. They have done everything, however, while seeking to create the conditions for their own immortality, to leave their mark, as well as messages.
In a very real sense, it is this general message that art tells us about, more than anything else: Are we, the women and men of today, capable of transmitting for a long time to come the message of our human siblings who preceded us? Leaving a mark as strong as that of our ancestors? Creating the conditions for there to be another humanity after us? Finally, those among us who, by secularizing the universe, have so largely rejected the idea of another world where immortality would be possible, what are we doing to face the precariousness of our universe?
That is what you have to think about when you see these treasures: Why are the only things that we have left from the past had to be cleverly hidden that it was able to elude plunderers for millennia? What have we done with our planet? Are we first and foremost predators, destroyers, without limits, not even the pillaging of graves? Are we incapable of creating the conditions so that, in a hundred years, a thousand years, four thousand years, a serene, cultivated, benevolent humanity will turn to us with gratitude. Or if such benevolent humanity exists, it does not curse us.
Run to see this exhibition. And think of those who will have to take responsibility for our answers to these questions.