This is not a post about the apocalypse, but it’s apocalypse adjacent. Like life right now. My friend Carla recently shared a piece with the headline The Banality of Apocalypse, and while the piece itself, a meticulously ordinary account of escaping from the NSW fires, was riveting for its relatable scariness, it’s the headline that keeps flipping around in my brain like a fish on a rock. The banality of apocalypse.
My friend Khristina says she can’t watch apocalypse shows now because it’s all too close to home. I’ve always felt this way. I don’t need to watch The Walking Dead. Mitch McConnell gives me nightmares enough. The news from Australia is apocalypse writ real.
But how to sit next to an apocalypse? How to enjoy breathing unsmoky air? How to write New Year’s resolutions? How to spend a week at the beach, drinking craft beers in cute cans? It feels callous and unseemly, like when companies accidentally publish their programmed tweets minutes after a disaster. But if I follow this line of thinking, it can render me completely immobile. So I started taking piano lessons.
I take piano lessons because I have to think that life will go on. That there is still room, amid the complete depravity of a world that chooses coal over koalas, to do something that exists only for myself for a few hours a week, to concentrate so deeply on something so micro, despite a macro gone berserk. For me, it’s hope manifest. The world is burning, but I have to hope that we’ll figure it out. And even as I want to focus on ACTION all the time, piano is a way to take time to breathe. It takes me an hour to work out the fingering for just a few measures of Chopin. It takes me a second to curse my musical ineptitude. But if I have to sit next to an apocalypse, I may as well do so with a nocturne at the ready. Or at the very least, the theme song from The Office.
I’m in South Florida, which has always been apocalypse adjacent, but is even more so now that there’s an apocalypse-themed café in the mall. Every time I think this town can’t get more garish, it surprises me.
In my search for a piano that my family can grow with, I’m astounded by the range of free pianos available. No one wants a piano anymore. It reminds me of another article with a great headline a few years ago: No one wants your brown furniture. No one wants brown armoires, not even the beautiful, solid wood pieces that have lasted generations. We’re in the particleboard epoch. This is a tangent. But it’s an apocalypse-adjacent tangent. Thinking about things that last a long time is comforting. Remembering that I’m a blip in a continuum makes it OK to play piano for an hour. As the world burns.
What do you do to stay calm and focused amid the relentless stream of koala fire photos? Let me know in the comments!
Vogue Italia created an all-illustration issue, to avoid the waste of all those travel-heavy photo shoots. Beautiful and inspiring and about time.
Thank you Jenn for this beautiful hilarity:
Hope you are having a wonderful week!
As always, send me your thoughts, links, suggestions.
P.S. I’m always curious to know what you think. This is my newsletter for the week of January 9, 2020, published in partnership with YES! Media You can sign up to get Minimum Viable Planet newsletter emailed directly to you at https://mvp.substack.com/.
Sarah Lazarovic is an award-winning artist, creative director, freelance animator and filmmaker, and journalist, covering news and cultural events in comic form. She is the author of A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy.