In which the universe, in its eternally convoluted and cryptic way, speaks to Daniel.
The Guild of Book Workers’ Horizon Book Arts Exhibition sits in front of the reference desk of Collins Memorial Library, and it had been sitting there for two weeks before I even took real notice of it last week. My sophomore spring semester had begun rather poorly, just as my freshman spring semester had, and for almost exactly the same reasons – I was restless for change in my academics, I was worn out from the previous semester, and more than anything, I was fretting over the upcoming applications I would be turning in for opportunities in my junior year. I fear the future, the unknown. I fear instability and I fear being unprepared for challenges ahead, and I fear disappointing others, or worst of all, myself. Applying for future opportunities is, therefore, an act that I find terrifying. It was with these fears and worries, then, that I entered the library to print a paper last week and, for reasons that I could not identify, decided that I had to take a closer look at the exhibit.
Each piece of artwork in the exhibit was either fashioned from or in reference to a book, and dealt with the literal and figurative idea of horizons. This was the first thing that struck me as a remarkable coincidence, because I have long been deeply fascinated by the many meanings of the word and idea “horizon” – fascinated by the fact that a vanishing point in a painting contains an infinite section of the universe, by myths stating that the gods sewed the heaven and the earth to keep the world together, by the idea that, no matter our mistakes and shortcomings, the world is so much larger and more beautiful than we could possibly imagine.
Playing upon the delightfully whimsical and clever plot of one of my favorite books, Edwin Abbot’s 1884 satirical novel Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, there was an edition of the book from whose flat cover a part of a sphere literally stuck out, in reference to its story wherein a denizen of a two-dimensional world encounters, to his complete chock and bemusement, a sphere. There stood a beautiful edition of Dexter Palmer’s tragicomic steampunk novel A Dream of Perpetual Motion, with a beautiful illustration of a floating airship and a man peeking behind the curtain of the sky to see the spinning sapphire gears of the universe beyond. This I loved not only due to its beauty, but also because I later found out that the novel is a literary variation on my favorite Shakespeare play, The Tempest. Strangest of all, however, were the multiple art pieces that mentioned the San Francisco Bay Area – where I spent most of my adolescence – and North Carolina – where my family moved several weeks after I left for my freshman year of college.
There have been rare few times in my life when I have ever really truly felt as if everything fell into place, that for a brief moment, something truly mysterious had happened to me. But how strange and wonderful it was, seeing those pieces of art that I’m sure hundreds of students have passed without second thought. How strange and wonderful, to feel such hope.
One of my greatest fears is that I will struggle and fight to get by, only to look back on my often meaningless, trivial hardships and realize that it all meant nothing, that it was a foolish dream that I should have thrown away long ago. Perhaps it is true, and sometimes I have the sudden and violent realization that, more likely than not, nothing that occurs in my life will really affect the world. But the words of an art piece upon which was written the Sanskrit proverb Salutation to the Dawn still ring in my head, like music from something glorious I do not yet understand, as if to say that the people and things that make my short little life happy are all that matters:
“…For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today, well lived,
Makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow
A vision of hope…”