Maira Kalman makes the case for optimism and expresses what I love most about her work:
The sense that people get from reading my work is that I don’t have antipathy to people. I really care about the people that I’m writing about. And I have a humanistic attitude and a kind of loopy optimism — because I’m acknowledging all the sadness and all the heartache and all the trouble, but I usually come out on the side of: Well, despite that, here we go and on we go, and things can also be fantastic at the same time as they are horrible.
Yes. We can’t choose the facts of the world, but we can choose how to respond to them.
Maria Popova at Brain Pickings teases out more of the themes from the video, including the nature of identity and the meaning of life. My previous thoughts on Kalman here.
(via Brain Pickings; image via Kalman’s blog at The NY Times)
Though I’d seen Maira Kalman’s work here and there for years (the famous “New Yorkistan” cover for the New Yorker, for example), I really became aware of her through her illustrated blog for the New York Times (her take on Obama’s inauguration is one of my favorites) as well as through her whimsical images for Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Recently, as I mentioned, I had gone to see “Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World),” an exhibition of her work at the Jewish Museum, and… Look, I’m just going to have to put up some images here, because they’re wonderful. Continue reading
Possibly the coolest expression of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy ever:
I love how Artoo and Threepio’s personalities are perfectly suited to existentialism’s implications: Threepio tapping into despair (“We’re doomed!” as he often says in the actual films), and Artoo cheerily pointing out what lies on the other side of that despair — i.e. the rewards of a self-created life.
It’s interesting how much modern pop culture has absorbed a central tenet of existentialist (and humanist) thought: “existence precedes essence,” the idea that, more than our origins and abilities, we define ourselves by our choices and actions. Batman’s classic line from Batman Begins, a key idea in the Harry Potter series, and the entire underlying theme of The Iron Giant are just a few recent examples. (Frank Turner has been giving it some thought as well.) Sartre and Camus would be proud.