What hurt me - what crushed me as a young person was the ordinary - the regular world. The needs of the human body and the ways of polite society. I observed the willingness of people (and really the need) to understand and follow rules without questioning those rules.
This hurt me because so much of what we did seemed wrong in that it was unsustainable. I’m sure it was pointed out to me in one of my classes that our world was becoming polluted and overpopulated and then one day, in another class I came to understand the inheritance of nuclear weapons, so I am probably not alone, in my generation, feeling a bit hopeless about humanity.
I was born with a contrary personality. My natural instinct is to question everything and to wonder if the opposite is true - at all times. So the more complicated and artificial the social construct, the more I have railed against it. The rules of table manners, for example confounded me. I have come to see these rules as a kind of elegance. To appreciate the rituals for the fun they can be.
But the waste of the food industry, the enormity of it, the cycle of effort in farming translated to real garbage by way of sugar cereal or hostess snack cakes - these are the things that hurt so much. The cycle of garbage that a human produces. How can a person live, understanding the amount of trash we put onto the earth?
The mountain of clothing that fashion demands has also irked me this whole life. I’d much rather be naked, at all times. I don’t mind about clothes. I wear them because it is required but humans aren’t meant to - every single place of work must explain in detail what kind of clothes they allow because humans continue to this day to be confounded by clothing. All the while there is clearly little more important than what a person wears in terms of how others will see you and treat you.
But I’m not the type to become a naturalist - even though that would be the logical answer here. And I’ve met them. It should suit me. Grow what you will eat. Eat only what you can grow. Live as simply as you can. Clothing optional. Don’t drive, don’t make trash.
In this way I’m just like every other human, I want to follow the rules and live my life. I want to play by the rules and win in my life. I work, I spend my money carefully. I keep my refrigerator stocked and my pantry full. My clothes closet overflows. I do what I can to maintain society and keep it moving forward in an orderly fashion.
While it pained me in my youth to feel so crushed by the enormity of the systems set up by humans and how wrong they mostly seemed, there was a saving grace. There has continued to be something apart from the regular, the ordinary and horrifying.
I found it in the books my parents had and they showed it to me in the museums we visited. It hung on the walls and stood in the halls in my grandparents house. Some people didn’t follow the rules at all, and their work was revered and held out for all to see.
At 20 I spent a summer in Germany where things were humming along with incredible regularity. The rules were very clear and everyone followed them very carefully. I was learning about being an adult. I had to shop for myself a little, cook for myself a little. I had to manage my money and time and figure out what I would do with myself because no one was going to tell me or guide me.
I had classes and classes always made sense to me. I was good at learning and studying so that was nothing new but an entire world was open to me there. I could go anywhere I wanted after class and every weekend was free for me to explore. So I went to see art. There was a park with a Claes Oldenburg statue. There were museums filled with Dali. There was Bauhaus art everywhere.
Even now, years since I forgot about the crush of being normal, years since I decided to do my very best to be as normal as possible (not very), I feel the relief of art. A painting, a sculpture, a drawing, a movie, a book, an artist - these are the things that let me breathe. These are things that calm me deeply. I have always wished for artistic talent because I have the mind for it. If I could draw what I dream about, for example, I think people would want to see that.
If I could make art, that would satisfy me. I am satisfied by the art of others. In an extremely deep way, the irregularity of it - the way it is profoundly out of the ordinary gives me relief.
There is a park. It is a human place. A place where humans decided to gather, safely. A place for kids to play and for parents to watch. A place where nature is not allowed to go freely. But we also put a giant statue of a water hose there. It doesn’t do anything but look ridiculous. On a separate, curated lawn far from there lie giant shuttlecocks. Elsewhere a giant spoon with a massive cherry on it rests on top of a pond. These things crush me as well, but with gratitude. This art is real nonsense and yet it is only this kind of thing that lets me feel connected to other humans. That a human would make these things and that I am not alone in celebrating it - traveling around the world to catch glimpses of it - that is how I know there are other humans like me. That is where my hope dwells.