Symbols of the World

Human history is full of instantly-recognizable symbols which take all sorts of forms, from 2D art to 3D buildings to great achievements. These show the capacity of humanity to create and achieve, to change the environment around us, and to understand how the world, and our psyches and societies, work.

One of the earliest symbols of humanity is the oldest and last surviving Great Wonder of the Ancient World, the Pyramid of Kufu, also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza. This towering structure was built in 2560 BC, making it older to the Romans than the Romans are to us. It was the tallest structure in the world for almost 4,000 years.

The original symbolism of the pyramid was the primordial mountain from which Egyptians believed all things originated. This pyramid symbolizes two things. The first is the capacity of humans to do the impossible, as such a construction project would be difficult even with today's technology. Secondly, it symbolizes humanity's preoccupation with death.

Pyramids were built as tombs for Egyptian Pharaohs, in order to transport them into the afterlife. It shows our great struggle with our own mortality, and the lengths we go to in order to keep death at bay.

All of religion, in fact, deals with the afterlife, and how we will be judged for our actions on Earth. The religions of the world have produced some of the most iconic pieces of symbolism in history, not just in their rites and customs, but in the very symbols they use to identify themselves.

Images such as the Christian cross, the Muslim crescent, or the Star of David prove to be among the most effective symbols, in large part due to their simplicity. One religious symbol has left the realm of its religion to be used and understood by everyone from atheists to members of other religions-the Taoist yin-yang symbol.

The yin-yang represents two complimentary forces which are technically in opposition, but which cannot exist separately. This cuts to the core of our understanding of the universe. There can be no light without darkness, no summer without winter, no male without female. This much we have been taught by our observations of the mechanisms which govern both how our bodies work and how the world works.

Our understanding of the world has led us to one of the most symbolic achievements in history-landing on the Moon. The Moon itself has a multitude of symbolic qualities, from full moons being bad luck in medieval times, to being associated with the yang to the Sun's yin. The first 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing showed the capitalism of the United States winning out over the communism of the Soviet Union.

But more importantly, it showed that we could overcome both the fundamental forces of nature and our fear of death to achieve impossible feats. You don't say 'Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went to the Moon,' you say 'we went to the Moon.'

The actions of a select few are representative of all of us. Their actions have come to symbolize our potential. The journey to the Moon is the most powerful symbol for the human legacy, as it's not necessary to travel to a location or ponder an icon. All it takes to be inspired is to look up.

A: A tomb and vehicle to the afterlife
B: A ship to the moon
C: A granary
D: A display of a pharaoh's strength in battle

A: 2560 BC
B: 1000 BC
C: 2100 BC
D: 2 AD

A: The economy
B: Lunar exploration
C: The afterlife
D: Construction projects

A: Planets in orbit
B: All things have a complimentary opposite
C: Warfare
D: The afterlife

A: Apollo 11
B: Ra 14
C: Helios 23
D: Sol 9

A: 1869
B: 1699
C: 1969
D: 1996

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