Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Don't Fear the Reaper, or the End of the World or Anything Else

(I'm just going to spare you the halfhearted apologies for my lack of Sparlke, Sparkle. You probably get it by now.)

This past weekend was Valentine's Day weekend, which meant that I spent it going to an art history conference and eating Thai food at a mall. (Not complaining, really.) Every year, the College Arts Association plans their annual conference right over the most lovey-dovey of holidays, probably in an effort to blast away all preconceived notions that art historians are primarily cat ladies by demonstrating that we can, indeed, get down with our bad selves. Truthfully, it was a good weekend and I learned a lot of new things that I can't remember off the top of my head. So much for information retention.

I was particularly struck by one talk that I listened to, given by an artist who creates books and collages out of handmade paper. She uses berries, leaves, snake skin, salt, dirt, and other natural material as the pulp of her paper, and the results were visually lovely. However, I became increasingly alarmed as she explained the motivation for her work. Each project stemmed from a global crisis - climate change, loss of resources, etcetera. She gave an enormous number of statistics from which I reached the following conclusion: we all need to move to northern Canada and Greenland NOW because that's basically the only land that will be left for human survival. But don't move to the coast! That will be under water.

You can see where this is going. I was alarmed because she was making a plausible case, and I was alarmed because she didn't give us a way out. (Well, there might have been a way out, but it was discussed at the end of the talk and by then I was sitting in a quiet panic thinking about my future life in Canada. CANADA.)

As I've been mulling over her work, it made me think about all of the other things I have good cause to panic over. My thesis is due in a few short months. I don't know where I'll be living after June. I have absolutely no job prospects at this moment in time. If I really went off the deep end, I'd already be planning my future as a homeless, unemployed grad school drop-out. Oh, and then there's that part about our world imploding around us and all the polar bears floating on their sad, miniature ice blocks.

Can you imagine living with that kind of fear on a daily basis? I could hardly handle it for a few hours! Are these problems serious? Certainly. I'm not advocating a life of ignorance, although sometimes that sounds nice. But I can't live a life always halfway under my metaphorical school desk, waiting for the bomb to drop. It's always easy to see how we're on the precipice of disaster - it's much harder to see how we might be on the precipice of something great. Or at least something OK.

I don't know if there's much of a moral to this post, but if there is, I think it has to do with a renewed feeling of positivity and floating-with-the-boat-ness. Living with a sense of urgency can be good and helps us be productive humans. Living under a weight of fear is not. It smushes us and makes me sad. I for one am not the best human I can be when I'm smushed. So I'll do what I can to make this world nicer, and try to keep my face turned to the bright side.

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