“I would think — what the heck is (this) place,” said Rashid as she walked toward what used to be the 12th section staircase of the Eiffel Tower, and away from the pyramid that inside holds a plaque on the floor that reads “the official center of the world.”
“The church (is) just amazing,” said Malena, who then explained how surprised she was to see that the church and the pyramid sit on the opposite sides of numerous rows of “granite walls” on which the history of humanity is being engraved.
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“I guess there (was) more than I thought there was going to be,” Malena said.
Stories like Rashid’s and Malena’s are typical. People see the landmarks from the freeway many times, only to drive through and, hence, fail to learn about Felicity and its Museum of History in Granite.
In Imperial County, “we are totally unknown,” said Jacques-André Istel, mayor of Felicity and president of the board of trustees of the Museum of History in Granite. The reason is simple, he suggests, “we don’t advertise. We are too busy” working on the museum.
A granite museum
The work that Istel referred to seems to be like his vision, a never-ending process that grows every time he has an idea.
Istel would like to say that “I am genius and thought of it (the museum),” but actually the idea evolved over time.
Two decades ago his idea was to have a triangular granite monument where names would be carved in for millennia — 4,000 years to be precise.
But that idea grew to hundreds of granite panels, full with history and images carved for future generations “as a site of remembrance,” wrote Istel in a book recently published.
The issues discussed in these panels range from politics to literature, and from science to religion and even the Foreign Legion.
And while it may seem obvious that the choice to give a monument to the Foreign Legion stems from Istel’s nationality, the real reason is much more insightful.
A person can join the legion with a false name, he said, and after 20 years of service and good conduct; this person comes out as a French citizen, with a new name and their past wiped out.
“This is redemption through danger and suffering,” Istel said, “and the concept of redemption through danger and suffering is worth a monument — don’t you think?”
One of his latest ideas, currently under construction, is a rosetta stone for the future.
“Who is going to read English in 3,000 years?” he asked.
So on this monument, Istel is engraving a key for the English language through the use of ancient Greek, mathematical language, computer language and “whatever” other means of explaining the key he can come up with, he said.