association-list a veritable mint for dunning-kruggerands

Write once, then destroy

When I was in high school, the Chaplain, who was a liberal sort, invited a group of Buddhist monks to come and visit. They came and talked, answered questions, skinny asian men, some young, some old, with shaven heads and saffron and orange robes, wearing sneakers or Birkenstocks over socks. Few of these things made any impression on me, though. I was in high school, after all, and knew most things better than they did. I’m still not a fan of religious orders, although I think that I could have a more fruitful conversation with one of them. The thing that really stuck with me, though, was the sand mandala that they completed while they were there.

I don’t know if you’ve seen one of these things, but they’re quite intricate, fine, clear lines of colored sand, shaken out of a paper funnel with delicate taps. The idea that they were simply going to complete it, let it sit for a few days, and then just tip it into the trash or perhaps use some other, more sacred method of disposal were abhorrent to me. I spent the couple of days that they took to complete it thinking up ways to preserve it. My favorite, the one I ended up suggesting to the Chaplain, was to have them build it on steel, or some other heat resistant surface, then bake it in the kiln we had in the art building, sealing the pattern in glass. He explained it all to me then, but I didn’t buy it then, and am not one hundred per cent sold on the idea of enshrining the transitory nature of things in expensive ritual.

Still, there are lessons to the things beyond the obvious, or at least there were for me. The value of artwork as symbol, rather that just being the thing itself. Up until then, art was just something that you did because it was beautiful, or because it felt good, rather than because it meant anything. Sometimes, of course, an artwork is just a thing done for its beauty, or the satisfaction of creating it, and often that’s enough, or even better than had it come gravid with symbol, but for all of my teachers nattering on about what this or that artwork symbolized, I’d never known what they meant before then, never had the realize that in a particular context a visual artwork could be transformed into a tool for saying, lent narrative weight beyond its immediate presentation.

I had intended to say something here about my distaste for the internet’s tendency towards the packratting of ephemera, but on further contemplation, it’s early days yet. Recording everything and then using various filtering mechanisms (primarily the eyes of the bored, at this point) to ferret out the things among them that aren’t trivial or ephemeral isn’t something that we’ve had the technological capability to do, up to now. As a strategy for finding the things worth preserving, it certainly has its merits. In all likelihood, most of the hesitancy we see, the trepidation toward being seen as trivial or insignificant, has to do with the human perceptual bias towards the superiority of the past. We should probably give it a little time before we bother to pass judgement, or even before we worry about the problem.

<-- Short reviews, 'cause I can't think of a better title Titanium Mike Saves the Day -->