Why I Am Hopeful

Artist Andy Goldworthy creates impermanent and highly unnecessary art. From New York Times

I have been thinking for some time now about the unnecessary. We routinely hear about or read about this or that important human trait and how its appearance in humans turned out to be vital to our survival as a species. Fight or flight, the ability to make tools, the behaviors that make possible the formation of social bonds which support group formation.

The idea that what is important to human life is the “selection” of traits that are necessary or conducive to our survival has long struck me as producing a very uninteresting list of things for humans to celebrate. Or, at the least, it seems to leave a lot of what I care about unaccounted for. How does Teller’s performance of the “rose trick” contribute to our survival or fit into the doctrine of human necessity that is the worst use of Charles Darwin’s (and others) wondrous theory of evolution.

In my email inbox this morning I found a video shared by my friend, Michael. It features the fire eating performer Stephanie Monseau. This is a purposeless and unnecessary wonder. It is magical, it is beautiful and, for me, it points to one of the greatest gifts of being human: to stand in awe of another.

And then, my wife Moira sent me a video that was intended by her as an antidote to the frustration and melancholy of the politics of despair in a world who’s news seems more concerned with the virus as perpetual boogie man, than with the interesting, joyful, living that people make possible for each other every day. In this case, it was a perfectly useless and unnecessary short film featuring a fictional shell-person, called Marcel.

These things give me hope because they are evidence of the lengths that humans will go to in creating the unnecessary things that invite us to experience beauty, humor, sadness, compassion, absurdity and many other things that we do not need, but that can and will save us.



Michael is a Design Insurgent and Chief Unhappiness Officer

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