Empty spaces on city walls are often filled up with ads (thanks, capitalism) that instill feelings of discontent, inadequacy, and a false sense of who we are and should be in life, and this project does the opposite; It shows us that we are not so different. We all have the same core values and needs in life (except for the guy who said he wanted to be "tried for piracy" before he dies.) But even the differences that this project points out display them in a way that is celebrated, as it should be. It also speaks to the brevity of life and encourages us to focus on the things that are truly important (like not forgetting your own Mother's birthday, as I did last week . . . terrible offspring.)
This project reminded me of an activity I did with my students when I was teaching a small class for college freshmen.
It was that touchy-feely sort of ice breaker that most people roll their eyes at, but I think it came at a good time for this class. This was a small group of mostly timid kids just out of high school, swimming in the vast sea of Arizona State University, so there was a lot of insecurity floating around the room that was keeping us from going deeper into a lot of topics I wanted to discuss. Towards the end of one class, I asked them to write a question on three different note cards: one question about themselves, one question about others, and one question about the universe. Then I went home and typed them up exactly the way they wrote them and with the same frequency that they occurred. The next class, I brought the list and we all sat in a circle (cue the eye roll) as I read the list aloud. Then we just sat for a while noticing our own reactions, without trying to answer any of the questions that were posed. Since this class was years ago and the students have since gone their separate ways, I think it's okay to share an excerpt from that list:
Questions about myself:
Am I really in love?
Will I be a good teacher?
Where will I live after I’m married?
Is my head too small?
Will I make a lot of money?
How will I die?
What brought me to ASU?
Where’s my WIFE!?
When am I gonna die?
How do I live for myself and not for others?
Will I like the person I will be in 10 years?
Will I be a good parent?
Will I be successful?
Will I get married?
What will happen to me?
Will I get a felony charge for smoking pot and have it ruin my teaching career before it starts?
When will I die?
Am I a healthy person?
Am I a good person?
How am I gonna finish college AND raise a child?
Am I gonna make it in teaching?
Where will I end up working?
Will I make it through college?
Will I actually become a teacher?
Will I stay in Arizona?
Will I get through college in 4 years?
Will I get married? When?
Will I have kids?
Will I be successful?
Questions about others:
Will we ever have true equality in the U.S.?
Will others listen to what I have to say?
Why does x act like she’s better than everyone?
Why does x keep changing his lifestyle so drastically?
Are my friends really true friends?
What happened to Chewbacca the actor?
Is Tupac really dead?
Will x ever not like Ohio State
What do others think of me?
How do you know if you can trust someone?
Can you ever expect someone to change?
Will my family go to heaven?
Will x ever be happy with himself?
Will x make it out alright?
Will x live long enough to tell their story?
Does Bush have any remorse for anything he has done?
Does he like me back?
Why does she shut people out?
What do other people think about?
Will my parents stay married?
Do guys always assume that girls want to be more than friends?
What is x thinking and why won’t he just come out and share?
How can x be so in love with a person that is so rude and mean-hearted?
How is it that everyone is so sure about being their correct major?
How is it that x can be so nice to others and so horrible to me?
When is my mom going to die?
Why did my mom and dad split up?
Why do people kill in the name of religion?
When will others realize how cool I am?
Why do people act the way they do?
Who is “real”?
Questions about the universe:
Are there really Aliens?
Is universal peace ever possible?
Is there life out there?
Will my baby be healthy?
Will it be a boy or a girl?
Is there a heaven/god? If so, which religion was right and how will the wrong religions be punished?
When will the world end?
What is the universe’s purpose/plan for me?
How long will I live?
Will there ever be peace?
How long will the world be around?
Is Pluto a planet?
Will Snoop Dogg ever stop smoking?
I’m Ron Burgundy?
What is the meaning of life?
Will there ever be peace throughout the world?
Is God/Jesus/Allah real?
Is there a hell?
What is the meaning of life and why do we have a conscience?
What would happen if there was no discrimination?
How would the world (USA) be different if education wasn’t important?
Why didn’t the Yankees win and Corey Liale die?
Are aliens real?
When will the earth blow up?
Are there martians?
What will the world be like a million years from now?
Actually how big is the universe?
Is there a god?
Will the human race survive global climate changes?
How can we solve poverty?
Why do we even have poverty?
Are we alone?
Would any caring god hate me even if I lived a good life?
Where did we come from?
Is there really a God?