Death, obsession and terracotta

Terracotta Army

Terracotta Army. Foto: Tor Svensson on sv.wikipedia

Maybe we are all obsessed.

As I walked in to view the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts last weekend, I didn’t expect to walk out wondering this, about immortality. Just a few hours later, I watched a preview for the new Twilight movie and was a little surprised to see Bella as a vampire. Yes.

I did expect to be amazed at things like the craftsmanship, the enormity of the necropolis, and the personality depicted in the clay figures at the museum. In the last room was the figure of a general: his dress was distinctive, as was his comparative air of authority and experience. More finely: the gesture in his hands (you can see it here) revealed his power and the respect of his army. The exhibition delivered on these expectations.

Back to death and obsession: Perhaps I have an overly soft spot for artists, but the nugget that I carried with me from the introductory film and into the exhibit was this: the possibility or probability that Qin Shi Huang, when his own body was buried nearby, had arranged for the entombment of all the artisans who created the army and underground city, along with various other living beings, there with his clay army. Note: visitors were not allowed to take pictures in the exhibition. Thank you, Wikipedia Commons and Tor Svensson, for allowing me to use the photo above.

The cruelty is what stood out, but consider why he may have done this: perhaps  his enemies would follow him into the afterlife. What if they were to build a bigger, better clay army? It would be harder for them to do that if the artisans who created Qin Shi Huan’s army were no longer around.

There are likely a multitude of other reasons for the creation of the clay army, and we continue to reap benefits from the ongoing revealing of it in China, today. Still, given my beliefs on death, I’m suddenly wondering how much of an impact they have on my day-to-day life. Likely, plenty.

I look at how I prioritize activities and people in my life, and how I value them and make decisions about what to do with my time. Joy, attentiveness, discovery, invention, and positive impact on other people are all things that I continually cram into my days, months, and years. I was raised mostly Protestant, with a dash of Roman Catholic and more than a few dashes of comparative religion, as I gathered education and experience in this life. My conclusion: this life is long, and yet short. I don’t know what’s next, but there is a strong possibility that it’s either nothingness, or nothing like anything I have ever seen, even if I get reincarnated as a house cat. I have been a fortunate person, and this life offers so much richness and flavor that I feel compelled to absorb as much of it as I can, while I’m still here. There’s a possibility that it would be wasteful or ignorant, not to.

Twinkie Cake

Tacky Fun


One example of an activity I’ve done in honor of this short life, my fellow travelers, flavor, and laughter: Tacky Cake.

During my tenure as a co-leader of a creative department, we had a regular “creativity” session for our team of 15 or so web designers. This would break up the monotony of the busy ad work we were doing, and sometimes it jump-started creativity that really helped us with that ad work. The whole team was involved with choosing the activities: Sometimes we’d watch an inspiring film short, sometimes we’d play a game like Pictionary. Often, we’d break out a box of craft supplies and get to drawing, glueing, cutting, and acting with a specific objective in mind. One one day, we drew adjectives out of a hat, and the next week, each of us had to illustrate it. I drew “Tacky”, and then found the most ridiculous, gorgeous example of really tacky kitchen creativity: Twinkie Strawberry Cake. I assembled it, then labeled it with glitter and a stencil using our favorite tacky typeface, Comic Sans.

I dig up this particular story and photo in homage to the recent demise of Hostess snack cakes. I hope some crazy fool finds a way to keep Twinkies alive.