Cast your mind back to 1999; before September 2001, before Facebook, before Instagram, and before YouTube. Prince’s “party like it’s 1999” is playing frequently on the radio, summoning in a new era no one is prepared for. Another Olympics is just around the corner, and there is a lot of hype of pending financial and social collapse from the Y2K computer bug.
Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, along with other world cities were televised live to a worldwide audience. The Harbor Bridge was used as a giant platform for a fireworks display that stretched for miles, up and down the harbor. And the word “Eternity” was emblazoned across it in bright copperplate font, the same font that started appearing on public streets around Sydney nearly seventy years earlier. For a short time the story of Mr. Eternity captivated a city.
Arthur Stace died in July 1967 at the age of 82. Arthur didn’t have an easy life. Born in poverty to alcoholic parents, he stole to survive, and by twelve (coincidently, the age of sad importance in the next story) was working in a coal mine and became a ward of the state (Source: Wikipedia). It was around the turn of the previous millennium when he was sent to jail at the age of 15. In his twenties, he was a scout for brothels his sisters owned, and at age 32 he enlisted for WWI.
Later in his life, he became a Christian. Writing eternity on footpaths was his way of telling everyone about his newfound belief.
“Eternity went ringing through my brain and suddenly I began crying and felt a powerful call from the Lord to write Eternity.”
Arthur left the family home around 5am every morning to write his word. And so for the next 35 years, he carved himself legend status as Mr. Eternity. I’m not religious in any way, but you have to appreciate the commitment and sense of purpose Arthur had. It is estimated he wrote eternity half a million times. You can still see Arthur’s eternity around Sydney and in the National Museum.
10 Million Cranes
We can only imagine the thoughts and feelings of the Enola Gay crew as they approached their target on August 6, 1945, and prepared to drop the first of only two nuclear bombs used in warfare. Sadako Sasaki was two-years-old and living in Hiroshima, one kilometer from where the bomb exploded. She was thrown out of a window in her house and found otherwise unhurt by her mother. Like most survivors to this day, she was monitored for the effects of radiation exposure. And like many children survivors, she developed leukemia.
It wasn’t until she was 11 when the radiation exposure showed up in her body. She was given less than a year to live. It was while being treated in hospital a fellow patient told her of a Japanese legend that says anyone who folds a thousand cranes will be granted a wish. Sadako took to the challenge with determination. But her doctors were right. And in 1955 Sasaki died. She was 12. Three years after her death a statue of her holding a golden crane was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, as a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear weapons. Now every year approximately 10 million cranes are presented and displayed there.
She did finish folding 1000 cranes.
Of chalk and paper to achieve permanence.
Click to read other stories on persistence.
Also published on Medium.