I’m reading a fascinating feature in Harper’s about the 1500-year-old Buddhas at Bamiyan, Afghanistan. They are 150′ statues of the Buddha carved into sandstone cliffs the Hindu Kush mountains north of Kabul. Or I should have said were — the Buddha’s of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.
Now the statues are being rebuilt. A UN agency is using sonar and other sophisticated equipment to painstakingly identify, number and reassemble the pieces, even though much of the masonry was pulverized to dust and pieces have shown up on E-Bay.
You gotta wonder about that. Why rebuild statues in the middle of a devastated country where most of the people still lack basic services like clean drinking water? Isn’t empty space where the Buddha’s once stood an appropriate enough representation of the Buddhist mindset? Hey, that would have worked in New York too — in the footprints the other towering symbols that fell a few months after the Buddhas.