Musings from the Void
Updated: Dec 6, 2021
*This project is the recipient of a 2021 Curious Creators Grant.
Following my trip to Paris in the summer of 2019, I took out a marker and wrote down two short musings that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. They stayed in my notebook for months, until my good friend Bailey convinced me to print them in a zine, which I gave to friends and left anonymously around the city of Philadelphia. This past year, I connected with fellow musician Julian Loida, whose introspective music reminded me of these writings; I soon had the idea of narrating the works and setting it to his music. Finally, I combined the words and sounds with my own illustrations to create what I believe is the final form of this project. If you had asked me what would become of those writings a year-and-a-half-ago, I would have told you they were nothing.
Imagine all the possible combinations of human DNA in this universe. Now consider your own DNA--what are the chances that you exist right here, right now? What are the chances that you exist at all?
Now imagine you’ve been given a blank canvas and told to paint. You’re dealt a set of colors to work with, and there’s no erasing or starting over. You keep painting until time’s up, but you don’t know how long you have. Do you take on a big project, risking not having enough time to finish? Do you perfect one thing and then sit around waiting for time to run out? Do you not touch the canvas at all, for fear of making a mistake? Or do you paint with abandon, brushing over your past work as you go along?
You survey your fellow painters. It seems like some have a lot more colors to choose from than you do, while others have only one or two. And some have hours upon hours to paint, while others have only minutes. Regardless, when time’s up, each painting is cemented, no longer with potential to change.
How unfair, you have the inclination to think. But let me remind you how fortunate you are to have been invited to this little soiree. It’s a privilege indeed.
Have you ever looked at an old photograph of someone at a thrift store and wondered who they might be? If you were lucky, there may have been a name or date written on the back. But what did this person do? What did they love? Who did they love? And how did their picture end up here?
When you cease to exist, your being is reduced to a summary--some photographs, a box of possessions, and the memories that those who knew you hold onto. As time goes on, that summary becomes briefer and briefer, and eventually, those who knew you move on with their lives, the things that were once yours are given to other people, and your photograph ends up alongside that of your anonymous companion. Even at it’s briefest and most disjointed, your summary is not permanent. All of the people who knew you will one day cease to exist. Your former possessions will lose their functions and be tossed out or made into something new. And your photograph, that little piece of paper, will no doubt deteriorate to nothing.
But you won’t be alone in your nothingness. You, and me, and the people of past, present, and future, will have witnessed the same sun rise and fall. And under our dear sun, we will have laughed until our stomachs hurt, cried until there were no tears left, and fallen deeply in love with one another.
So let us not concern ourselves with the concept of eternity. Let us not delude ourselves with the hope of permanence. Let us embrace the temporary and commit to oblivion.