Culturally-speaking, this one seems like the equivalent of two mirrors facing each other. Mindnumbingly unending repetition, an image that keeps looping back on itself: Steven Spielberg selling movies via the romance of Petra’s rose-red tombs while Petra then sells fifteen-cent Nescafe for two dollars in a styrofoam cup.
Or maybe its the old ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ joke, with a highly air-brushed Harrison Ford. Either way, it proves that capitalism does have a sense of humor.
The shop was closed, very early this particular morning. I checked. I actually would have bought the coffee. I woke before dawn and waited for the Petra visitor center gates to open as the sun came up, trying to beat the expected 110F heat and the crowds.
My son Wesley pointed out this sign as he and I crossed the last wastes of parking lot. I don’t think Petra was ‘cool’ in his 10-year old mind until he linked it to Indiana Jones. Then it became something more than just another museum or another run-down castle he was forced to visit. It became a video game, a backdrop, a place he understood. He began to ask the first of a couple hundred 10-year old questions about Crusaders and the Holy Grail and whether or not college professors really do use bull whips.
It made me wonder whether relics of this sort, as beautiful and empty as Petra, have a value of their own or whether value only exists to the degree that a site, or an object, or an idea, resonates with a person. Do all our histories require Steven Spielberg’s intervention so that they too might survive in the psyche of our children?
After a few more minutes Wesley and I passed beyond the visitor center gates, went down the vacant gravel footpath to the Siq, that narrow canyon through the keyhole of which, at the far end, are the remarkable ruins themselves. We were mostly alone. The moment was a full one for me, an almost holy feeling. Yet it had been touched, at the outset, with a healthy dose of Not Quite Right.