Dateline: 27 October 2015
By: Beth Lipman
It was one month ago yesterday (September 26, 2015), right next to an example of modern art titled "Material Culture" when Dave Brown surprised me.....
Marlene and I were in Corning, New York that day. She had planned a rendezvous get-together with some old high-school friends at the Corning Museum of Glass.
Peggy and her husband, Dick, came from out near Buffalo. Anne came up from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Roger came from Moravia, NY, which is where Marlene and I live, and where we all went to high school (Class of '76), but I rarely see Roger. Fact is, I rarely see anybody, because I really "don't get out much," which is what makes this story all the more amazing.
So we met our old friends in the entrance lobby. It had been four years since we were last all together for a nice visit. We did the hugging thing and meandered into the museum. It's a pretty big museum, and it's a nice one. I thoroughly enjoyed the blend of glass history, glass technology, and even glass art. There is old glass art and modern glass art.
The modern glass art was first up on our self-guided tour. Some of the modern glass art is kind of strange. In fact, most of it is kind of strange, and hard to understand. But when I came upon Material Culture, I got it. The whole thing resonated with me.
As the picture above shows, Material Culture is a small black table piled with an odd assortment of clear glass pieces—glass goblets, and bowls, and plates, and such. The little table is crammed with more glass than it can hold. The glass objects are all jumbled and precariously balanced. Some have fallen off the table and broken to pieces. In short, the little table is overwhelmed with excess.
Discussions of Material Culture revolve around the "fragility and transience of life and earthly delights." Well, okay, I can see that. But I also saw cultural excess, vanity, chaos, and the impending collapse of industrialized civilization.
I was reading about the display and taking it in and telling Marlene about it and I said to Anne, "Anne, it's about cultural collapse." She looked for a moment, realized what I was saying, and said, "We've already collapsed." And I said, "Yes, but after it all falls apart, the little black table will still be there."
I was thinking on this—about the little black table and what it might represent—as we all started to move on to another display, and then I heard someone behind me say my name.
I turned around and, if I remember correctly, Dave Brown said, "Hi Herrick." I looked at him and tried to figure out who he was, but my memory wasn't helping, and he said something about reading my blog, and I realized that I didn't know Dave Brown, because I had never seen Dave Brown before in my life, but he knew me because he reads The Deliberate Agrarian.
Wow. This was a first.
A brief discussion ensued. Dave introduced me to his wife and two children. The old high-school friends looked on in amazement. Then Dick took a picture of us all with Marlene's iPhone...
|Marlene, me, and the Brown family, |
with "Material Culture" in the background.
The Browns are from Warriors Mark, Pennsylvania. I'm from Moravia, New York. We met, by chance or Providence (depending on your world view), at the Corning Glass Museum, right next to a piece of modern art depicting the impending collapse of industrial civilization. It was the highlight of the day for me.
Maybe I should get out more often.