Would you rather…?

Here are the things I have determined are worthy of mention from within the past fortnight.

Thursday before last, there was an event at the Quickcenter (building where fancy events happen) that streamed “Leonardo Live”; in which some British reporters explored an exhibit in London that has 8 of Leonardo’s paintings in the same place. There were a bunch of interviews throughout, as they had to fill up 90 minutes, but according to my art history professor who gave a talk beforehand, the large high definition images of Leonardo’s painting were what mattered.

The next day when we had class, he asked us what we thought the average age of the audience was. He said it was probably about 70-75. He then asked us what we thought the average education level was. He guessed that 90% had baccalaureate degrees, 10% of which were doctors or lawyers. As I was walking out, I overheard a guy complaining that the whole thing was like something he’d see “on late-night TV”. I also heard some British accents.

At Socrates Café, we discussed the soul. So of course we start with “What is a soul”, and we end up saying it’s something immortal. But then later in the conversation one of the professors says: “Why don’t we just call it consciousness?” So, because I enjoy inducing calamity, I told him that it was because it sounded more scientific this way, to which he replied “exactly!” He then said that the way he saw it, most philosophers throughout history got the question of the soul wrong. This then generated a discussion that I had trouble following, about how a chair can’t be a chair without its chair-ness, or something like that.

On Saturday I taught the German school class where I’m usually a TA. Fortunately, the girl who usually tries to torment me went easy on me. She didn’t pay much attention to anything, but she neither question my gender nor called me an old man. Her brother showed up in class (they’re triplets), which I was expecting. I gave him his book and everything. Unfortunately, he was the primary cause of distraction from learning. I later discovered that he wasn’t supposed to be in the class, and that it was another student of the same name who was supposed to be there….he never showed up. But anyway, I taught them words, so that was good. Naturally I looked up all the words the previous night. Some of them are easy. For example, there are only so many ways to interpret “Campingparkplatz” (literally “camping park place”, or camp site). During Pause (pronounced Pow-zah) otherwise known as “snack time”, I ate some bread. I want to say it was banana bread. The kids always try to negotiate going to snack at an earlier time. Then they come back at least 5 minutes late.

Then later in the day “varsity art” was held. I painted a house on fire on a grassy hill by the ocean. This was on a tiny canvas.

The next day, some friends and I went into New York to look at art. First we went to the Whitney (or as my friends call it, the Whitney Houston) and took notes on some of the stuff they had there. What stuck out to me was a viking ship  made by a thirty year old who put things in the boat that symbolized renouncing the things he cared about in his childhood. Overall nothing in the museum made any sense at all. One room was dedicated to big canvases that were painted white. This was done by a woman who’s been making art for “over three decades”. I don’t get it.

To contrast this experience, we then went to the met, where I had to find 2 paintings to write about. I chose Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh: An Allegory of the Dinteville Family and The Martyrdom of Saint Barbara. Then I went to meet a friend elsewhere in Manhattan, and I got lost looking for Washington Square Park. Eventually I found Union Sqaure, and make my way to another park. I found myself at an Occupy Wall Street gathering, and among probably some of the most bizarre people in America. They were nice though. I went to the “library” (4 boxes of books on a table), and took free books. I took a copy of Sartre’s Nausea, only to put it back, and the people standing there gave it back to me and insisted I keep it. So I took a couple more books.

I then started talking to a guy named Jonathan, who tried to sell me anarchism. He did a good job, and though I haven’t been converted, he did get me to think about the concentration of wealth in the US, and how there’s more corporatism than actual capitalism. Apparently there’s somewhere in Mexico that serves as a model for an anarchist community. I also talked to a guy named Jake (I think it was Jake). Surprisingly, he had an actual job, which was being a translator (French, Portuguese, Spanish). He talked like this: “Hey man, isn’t it cool how everything like, is heading toward catastrophe, y’know man? Like, all this money and…power to the rich y’know man?” I don’t think either of us understood what he was talking about. Later I met a crazy guy who was loudly talking (to no one in particular) about homeless people in New York. I asked him where he was from, and he said Kuwait. I asked him why move to the US. He said that over here people are allowed to protest. There if you protest, “they shoot you.” I had to leave him mid-conversation (if you could call it a conversation, it was mostly him shouting), and he just kept shouting.

So I’ve gotten to see a variety of people in my experiences this semester thus far. Hopefully I’ll end up among the successful people who like going to art presentations, rather than a homeless guy. But as Jonathan pointed out to me, you always have a choice. He told a story of a psychiatrist who decided he would rather eat food out of the garbage than spend so much of his life on paperwork, so he quit his job. Reminds me of my friends playing “would you rather” the other night. I picked up one of the cards, which read “Would you rather your head be the exact size and shape as a basketball, or have both of your feet be the size/shape of shoeboxes?

Well that’s all for today, hope I’ve given you something worthwhile to ponder.

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