The short answer: Nothing much.
The long answer:
Recently I attended the memorial service of an architect. While it was sad that she wasn’t with us, it was wonderful to find out about her life outside the profession. It seems she was a well loved mother, grandmother and neighbour. She was constantly doing creative and ‘crazy things’ in the home and with her family- those are what made her so special. Very little was said about her professional work. It has been said, ‘No one on his deathbed ever said, I wish I had spent more time on my business’ and as we age, perhaps our external world becomes less important than our internal world. We are all creative beings and until the day we die, we are always creating. If we are not creating external works like writing, painting, photography or design, we are creating things inside our head. My father who suffers from dementia is constantly creating wonderful fantasies in his head all the time. Once I used to rush to ‘correct’ him but now I go along with his stories, it is so much more fun.
We constantly devalue our lives inside the home while we value the life lived outside. Our feelings, achievements and success are all linked to external things. Social media also has enhanced this tendency for external validation with ‘likes’, ‘followers’ and other symbols. But way back in 1935, pioneering artist, author, illustrator, and translator Wanda Gág wrote ‘Gone Is Gone: or the Story of a Man Who Wanted to Do Housework’. The man who thinks he does more or better work than his wife, swaps places with her and then gradually realises the value of house work. I remember this story so well as a teenager when I came across it and thanks to a friend who reminded me of this book again, I have started to value my life inside my home and also inside my body. I have started valuing things I do in the community where I live, the conversations I have with my children and family, with friends and neighbours.
While David Shrigley’s ‘Memorial’, a gigantic stone slab featuring items from a grocery list such as paper towels, bananas, tampons, etc. erected in New Yorks’s Central Park, might be a step too far to celebrate the mundane, it does highlight the lack of attention to our everyday in a subtly clever way. Last week, I also met with an Australian designer and as we talked, we discovered we had much more in common that we thought. It wasn’t about work- our lines of work were very different- but the sharing of our personal lives and things we did. After all, our creativity is unique, but our humanity is common. That is what lives on after we die. Santa’s memorial involved not only the usual food and speeches but also a disco just ‘because that’s the way she would have wanted it’. Wonderful- many thanks to Santa for sharing her life with us, even in death.