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08 March 2010 @ 04:50 pm
The end of things  
Captain Al’s recent loss of ABE has really set me to thinking about the things we create and how long they (and we) last. Perhaps Al is an extreme example since he spent so much of his life working on his robot and having it explode at the bottom of the Pacific is certainly a dramatic end. But there are many lesser examples.

Recently, as part of a cleanup at work, I had cause to scrap apparatus that I had built as a graduate student. The experience was strangely depressing. At the time I was building it I was 40 years younger, a grad student with all the focus and intensity of the characters in “Real Genius”. I could see that I put a lot of extra work into the device not just to be sure that it worked but because I cared about the way it looked. All the wires in the wiring harness were parallel and evenly spaced. The nuts were all rotated so that they aligned perfectly. I mean, it looked good but it was now my job to put it in the dumpster. It had served its purpose and had helped get my degree. Others had used it after me so it had had a good life but… nobody had ever taken the case off, nobody had seen the perfect 90 degree bends in the wire or the shiny solder joints (not too much nor too little solder). I don’t know if it bothered me more that I was being forced to dispose of my past or that my past was being disposed of. We don’t live forever and what we create doesn’t either but destroying what you build is a little like being forced to dig your own grave.

Most make a big distinction between people and things. After every disaster you will inevitably see someone on TV saying, “I lost everything but that’s ok, things can be replaced.” True, things can be replaced but what people are not as willing to admit is that so can people. How difficult that is depends on the investment that you put into either. The time and emotional investment needed to raise a child is enormous but the investment in the creation of things can also be huge. And it’s not only an investment of time and money. Artist are said to put their souls into their creations but they are not alone. Anyone who creates, who bends metal and plastic to his will puts a little bit of himself in his work. My grandmother used to make lace by hand – a process that fascinated me when I was five years old. She would say (in Italian), “I make something beautiful for you so that you will think of me when you see it.” I think that we all hope to “make something beautiful” so that we will be remembered. And so some things posses the souls of those that create them. It is appropriate to morn them when they are no more.
 
 
 
Amy Ranger: meisherempress on March 9th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
Che peccata!

You already know that everything passes away, some things sooner than others. That's why we were given the capability to appreciate the moments, the little things: in the end, it's all little things that add up to make a life.

I don't agree with you that people can be replaced. We are each unique. Another person can fulfill the functions done by someone else, but that is not the same as having shared memories and experiences.

I am sorry for Al's loss, and for yours, Tullio. We all know what beautiful things you make, and that you are a True Artist (TM). Letting go is painful. Take your time to grieve, and when you are ready: create again. Count me among the people who look forward to seeing what you make next!

Affetuosamente, come sempre: stai in gamba.
johnridleyjohnridley on March 9th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
I sometimes wonder whether to admire or feel sorry for artists who intentionally work in ephemeral media. While it's great to build things that you believe will last, there may be something to be said for fully accepting the temporary nature of all human creations.

I don't know that I could fully embrace this attitude; after all, I admire the person who carries all his possessions on his back, but I like having a house full of stuff.

Simplify! It may not be achievable, but I think in the long run releasing ourselves from captivity by our possessions is worthy and probably good for us as well. Having few possessions but many friends is certainly better than the other way around. We're most of us lucky to have ample quantities of both.