Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Paint a picture, write a poem!
Some days, it just gets to you...you know?
I'm talking about the doom and dread that pervades the subconscious of those of us who are managing to survive without too much trouble.
For much of the world, the perils of existential examination are moot: when you're picking through a garbage dump outside of Calcutta for your dinner, you're probably not inclined to ponder the larger meaning of life. But for those of us blessed (and I do mean blessed) with having, through the accident of Fate, been brought into a kinder and gentler version of the world, the menace of moral and existential introspection loom. To be sure, we do what we can to avoid it, with our televisions and computers and Ipods and name-your-distractions. But sometimes, perhaps when some defective person, unable to stave off despair, gets drunk and drives his car into a power line, the lights flicker off, the television screen goes dead, and we are stuck in our homes, blindly groping for something to grab onto and avoid falling into the abyss. We sense the monster lurking in the darkness.
Because, whether or not each of us has the courage to face it, the fact remains that these mortal coils through which we view this particular aspect of the Great Creation will eventually falter, breakdown, and cease functioning altogether. It's true individually, and it's true in the larger, collective sense.
You know it, don't you? Deep in your heart, you know it. And it sears like cold iron. It's not just that each of us is destined to die, but that civilization, society, indeed, the entire human species cannot last forever.
In its infinite mercy, the Great Whatever endowed us with a mere one-dimensional perception of time. We cannot foresee the end. We can only sense that it is out there, looming. And it is natural to be afraid. Not afraid for ourselves, individually, but afraid for those whom we love, and for the things we've created.
Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation may recall perhaps, the episode, entitled "The Inner Light," in which Captain Jean-Luc Piccard finds himself in a dream world that is facing environmental catastrophe. The people on this doomed planet ultimately realize that their time as a race is coming to an end. They endeavor to pool their resources and work together to create a space probe containing information about their culture and their people, a commemoration of themselves, which they launch in the hopes that someone somewhere will find it, unlock its secrets, and remember this long lost people.
When I have the courage to face it (maybe "courage" isn't the right word, I don't know), my heart breaks for this beautiful, hateful, vulgar, gentle, noble, virtuous, and infinitely-complex thing we call humanity. In my heart, I know we cannot be saved.
But we can leave something behind, can't we? We can put down a marker for some who-knows-what in some far-flung who-knows-where that we were here, and that we were, in our virtuous and horrible and noble and fallible way, beautiful. Can't we?
In the end, if there is anything we can leave behind that will relate what we are or were, I believe it is our art. So, let me urge you: For all our sakes, paint a picture! Write a poem! Shout out our "mighty YOP!" Don't do it for yourselves; do it for all of us. Our art can be our legacy, our "probe" into the Great Beyond.
In that way, we can live on.