Author: Haley Andonian (page 2 of 2)

The Onion

Haley Andonian

Origins

November 7, 2017

 

Igniting Change: In Search of the “Origins” of National Identity in Indonesia

Arount van der Meer

 

I found Professor van der Meer’s use of imagery throughout his lecture extremely helpful and beneficial to his argument.  The first image he presented was that of the oil lamp that Soemarsono used to describe the Javanese situation.  The image of the oil lamp and the understanding of its parts helped connect the foreign and novel messages being conveyed to the relatable and familiar object of the oil lamp.  Images are often useful in this way because, perhaps by connecting the novel to the familial, one can relate back to original thoughts, understandings, and feelings.

The other image that Professor can der Meer used was that of an onion.  In describing Soemarsono’s identity, he described an onion with many layers. Each layer is crucial to his identity, and to get to his true core every layer must be peeled back and considered.  However, I believe that it is very rare and extremely difficult for most to acknowledge their true and full identity.  Soemarsono does not deny any of his layers and rather embraces them all, but I highly doubt that most could say the same about themselves.

Origins are so crucial to one’s sense of self and outward presentation of identity, yet many people are not entirely open about who they are and where they come from.  Even with close friends, peers and colleagues, people tend to refrain from disclosing a full sense of identity, refrain from revealing all of the layers of their onion, and rather pick and choose who knows what about their identity.  Alone and separated from a family history known by others, one has the power to create the identity he or she wants to portray.  However, in a situation such as a small town or a reputable family, one loses the ability to shape their own history and is rather tied down by their origins.  Thus, origins can tether one to a certain identity if known by others, but can be either partly entirely irrelevant to shaping identity depending on how much of one’s origins are known by the public.

Whereas Soemarsono was completely open with his origins, such as his Hindu beliefs and his Buddhist past, others can choose to disguise their origins behind lies or simple failure to acknowledge pieces of identity such as religion, nationality, personal experiences, and family history.  I found it a shocking realization to compare Soemarsono’s openness to the at least semi-disguise most others hide behind.  Most people refrain from sharing at least some part of their origin story with others for a variety of reasons, from fear to simple shyness.  It is interesting to consider how different relationships and society at large would be if everyone were as open as Soemarsono about their origins.  Perhaps people would better understand and respect each other, or perhaps such an open society would leave people more vulnerable to attack, stereotypes, and criticism.  Regardless, the image of the onion is a valuable one to consider when thinking about origins and identity.

Colored Vases

Origins

Colby Art Museum

Haley Andonian

October 11, 2017

 

Walking around the art museum, I was shocked to see how many pieces of art work relate to the origins theme.  Origins can be found in anything and everything and are an important factor to consider when viewing and interpreting art.  The exhibit that struck me the most and that I found most blatantly relevant to the origins theme was the one titled Colored Vases by Ai Wei Wei.  The exhibit features multiple vases covered or partly covered in bright and colorful paint.  At a first, glance, with no historical context or background information on the artist, the vases appear as not much more than bright and aesthetically pleasing ceramics.  However, after learning more about the history of the original vases, the relevance of origins to the artwork becomes shockingly clear.

These vases are from the Neolithic era, which spanned from about 15,200 BC until 4500 BC.  As humans, we usually treat such old artifacts with a lot of respect and care.  We take the time to preserve them and protect them in museums, and in most cases the more well preserved an artifact the more its value.  These vases, like other artifacts, carry so much history and give us so much insight into the past.  In their original form, they could give us a glimpse of the lifestyles of the people of the Neolithic era, including information on their daily routines, tools, and intelligence.

It is thus shocking to see such precious and valuable items covered with vibrant paint in a seemingly careless manner.  Ai Wei Wei makes a bold statement about his view on origins by covering up these artifacts.  By both defacing the vases and concealing the past, he seems to be suggesting that the origins of these objects are not significant and do not deserve to be preserved or protected.

This exhibit has a big shock factor to it, but only once the origins of the vases are known.  Without knowing the history behind the vases, the paint seems harmless but once the viewer is made aware of how old the vases are he or she likely becomes perplexed, uncomfortable, or ever appalled.

Origins, thus, are very relevant to Ai Wei Wei’s Colored Vases piece.  They place meaning and context around the vases and help the viewer better understand the intentions of the artist.  In all pieces of artwork, the origins of the artists, the origins of the subject matter, and the origins of the physical materials are all very important to consider and add so much to one’s interpretation of the artwork.  Knowing where something comes from provides valuable insight and is crucial to a proper understanding and should thus always be considered.

I thought that this trip to the museum was very interesting and relevant to the origins theme.  This trip made me aware of the pervasiveness and importance of origins, especially in interpreting and understanding the message that an artist is relaying in his or her art work.

Colby’s Campus Layout

Professor Aaron Hanlon’s very first comment drew me in and sparked a lot of interesting considerations.  This first comment was on the layout of our campus at Colby.  Even though we are a liberal arts college, our campus is split into language and humanities buildings, science buildings, and social science buildings.

The structure of our academic buildings is something that has struck me in the past.  All of my closest friends here at Colby are majoring in different disciplines and, regardless of our busy schedules, I can usually guess where each will be throughout the week days based on their major.  The one majoring in psychology has most of her classes in Davis; the one majoring in English and Philosophy has most of hers in Lovejoy or Miller; the one majoring in Econ is usually in Diamond; and most of my classes, as an STS and Biology double major, are either in the science buildings of Diamond.

As freshman, my peers and I found ourselves going back and forth across campus attending classes in all different buildings.  My schedule one year required me going from Mudd to Diamond to the third floor of Miller all with only 10 minutes in-between.  However, as the years have gone by and we have reached our senior years, we find ourselves spending the majority of our time in our respective educational buildings.

Not only does the structure of our campus confine certain people to certain buildings for classes, but it also plays a role in defining our social life at Colby.  Where we take classes, who we take classes with, and where we study has a large impact on our Colby experience.  These people that we take our classes with become our peers and the people we study with become our friends.  Even the people we don’t interact with but see in our respective academic buildings on a day to day become familiar to us, whereas the many of other students studying in other buildings remain strangers.

I, thus, wonder if the structure of our campus juxtaposes our liberal arts values.  Yes, we have distribution requirements that force students to take classes throughout campus, but the majority of our studies for the majority of disciplines are confined to certain areas, certain peers, certain professors, and certain study spaces.  How are we as students supposed to truly diversify our intellectual pursuits and social interactions if we are confined to spaces with peers and professors interested in the same discipline?

I also wonder if it’s possible to break these niches.  Would it make sense to force more interactions by randomizing class spaces? Would randomly distributing classes and professors even work to help diversify our interactions?

Professor Hanlon’s opening remark on the layout of our campus made me wonder about why our campus is set up in this way and how this layout affects our liberal arts experience here at Colby.  Is this kind of organization necessary? Is it really affecting our experience? Should the layout be reconsidered?

Communities of the Soviet Arctic

Going into Felix Frey’s talk on “Industrial Centers in the Arctic: Why Soviet Planners Located Cities and Industry in Hostile Environments,” I was expecting to struggle with understanding the material since I have no background knowledge on the subject matter.  However, Mr. Frey successfully drew me into a surprisingly fascinating topic.  These industrial cities located in the far north of the Soviet Arctic are homes to extremely unique communities and their reasons for coming to and staying in these hostile environments are very interesting.

These cities originally drew people to the far north with the promise of a job, a home, and company-paid utilities.  The Soviet Union had a goal to utilize all of its natural resources, and since these hostile environments held profitable resources, they needed a way to attract workers.  The promise of a paying job and provided utilities was enough to draw people up north, and often enough to make people stay.  Once a community had been established, families for generations stayed in these northern industrial cities.  They had built a life there and grown accustomed to an extreme climate lifestyle.

These industrial centers in the Soviet Arctic thus drew people away from home into extreme climates with a vastly different lifestyle, and all for the operation of factories.  This ability of the demand for manual labor to completely change people’s lives reminded me of Lewis Mumford’s considerations in Technics and Civilization.  Had there been the technology to automatize the extraction of natural resources, so many people would not have been displaced.  However, on the flip side, the automatization of the industry would have taken away the opportunity for all of these people to earn a living.  By introducing machines and automatizing labor, we make life easier and more convenient, but we also take away jobs from people who need them.  As we keep automatizing, more and more people lose their jobs and less and less jobs become available.

What will happen to these people who have built their lives working in industrial cities in the Soviet Arctic when the factories shut down or come to rely completely on machines?  What will happen to everyday people across the world as they are replaced by machines?  Especially in regard to the communities in the Soviet Arctic, these people do not know another life than the one they have built in these extreme climates.  They are accustomed to a very specific lifestyle and to suddenly have to move away from home and into a completely different city with no job and no familiarity would be extremely difficult.

Although these communities of people living in the harsh conditions of the Soviet Arctic must have struggled to adapt and continue to struggle with the climate, they have built a life in these places where they earn a good living and have a set routine.  To replace these people with machines or to close the factories all together and leave them without jobs would be to destroy the life they have worked so hard to maintain and the communities they have become a part of.

How the Stars Align

What I found most interesting about David Bercovici’s lecture was how much had to happen for us to be here today.  The majority of the lecture was consumed with a detailed explanation of everything that happened that allowed for Earth to become a habitable climate with liquid water and complex life.

The universe had to expand, clouds had to collapse, stars had to explode and planets had to form all in the correct order and at the correct time.  If every event that David Bercovici mentioned had not happened when and how it did, the Earth would not be here or would not be here as the same kind of planet, complex life would not have been possible, and humans would not have evolved as we have today.

Thinking about the complicated origin of the universe made me think about how our own origins as individuals are equally as complicated.  If one’s ancestors hadn’t lived where they did, if some natural disaster hadn’t displaced a group of people, if one’s parents never crossed paths, someone would not be here today.  Everyone comes from such complicated backgrounds and every detail of their past, as well as that of their parent’s or ancestors, is so crucial in determining one’s life trajectory.  Every little decision someone makes has a drastic effect on their future, their children’s futures, and their children’s children’s futures.  As the butterfly effect explains, every detail matters and every move changes the course of history.  Any variation from the perfect conditions required to make the universe, the earth, or you changes the course of history, just as every decision that you make will affect the future in some way.

However, although everyone has complicated and unique backgrounds, everyone’s backgrounds come back to one moment: The Big Bang.  Without the Big Bang, we would not have atoms and stars; without atoms and stars we would not have Earth; without Earth, there would be no habitable planet; and without a habitable planet with liquid water and ability to sustain complex life, we would not exist. So, while we are all so different in where we come from, what we believe, how we behave, we undeniably have one origin in common.  The origin of the universe unites as all.

We all have origin stories full of moments or facts that we view as important to our identity.  Our origins, like the origins of the universe, are unique and dependent on many “stars aligning.” The origin of the universe and of habitable life on Earth required the coincidental successional of particular events, and our own origins are uniquely structured in the same way.

Thus, David Bercovici’s lecture on the origin of the universe made me appreciate the unlikely circumstances that lead to our ability to exist.  The lecture also made me consider the unique circumstances that occurred over generations and generations of human life that together form our own individual origin stories.  Origins define what objects become or who people are, and the way that origins are formed (the history of people or objects) has a major impact on the future of those people or objects.

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