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The Parallax View: August 3, 2010

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Humans love to create. 

We have an uncanny, universal desire to make our mark. 

It's why we photograph and paint. It's why we build towers and businesses.

One of my favorite shows, MadMen, dedicated a scene to the concept of human creativity. The scene lingered in my memory for weeks.

Two characters are discussing a Kodak marketing campaign about memory and legacy. 

Harry says to Don: 

"I've always been fascinated by the cave paintings at Lascaux. The bison get all the attention, but there are also these handprints, tiny by today's standards...It's like someone is reaching through the stone right to us, saying "I WAS HERE."

These cave paintings are among the earliest known works of art. They were discovered in 1940 near the village of Montignac in central France when four boys stumbled into a cave. Inside, they found paintings that were nearly 17,000 years old.

Secluded cave walls bear real imprints of humans who created the most beautiful Stone Age art. Something about these ancient human handprints is magical.

I remember when I first saw them. My Art History professor turned off the lights and projected an image of tiny handprints onto the classroom wall. The class was hushed, as if we were hearing a sacred secret.

Why does something so simple impact us so deeply?

I think it's because we're witnessing a tangible legacy left by fellow humans who responded to their desire to create. They made their mark. They reached through stone to tell us WE WERE HERE.

How will you make your mark?

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