I was happy to see sunshine this morning after last night’s rather harrowing slog home. I got on the Surly and headed to campus, feeling the aches from the whole-body vise grip I used to get home. After meeting with a student and then celebrating this year’s graduates, I biked down Willow, enjoying the heat of the sun and the (relatively) dry day. I snapped this picture as I turned down Amelia toward Clara. The grass is so high in this empty lot; it makes me think of–and want–a corn field here. It also looks so lush and free that it seems completely out of place in a city. I mean, Claiborne is only one block away! The house in the distance is covered with cat’s claw, tearing it apart from the inside out, the external staircase is buckling, and the walls are falling in. And look at that sky. How can I look at this scene of destruction and blight and simultaneously find it almost beautiful? Partly, I think, I can do this because this isn’t my house and that’s not the lot where my house used to be. I’m just biking through. I don’t want to aestheticize disaster, don’t want to become immune to these scenes. Mitch Landrieu was sworn in as mayor today. He said in his speech that the time for recovery is over; now it is time for creation. I’m all for creation, as long as we don’t forget to reckon with scenes like this one.
I am drawn to scenes like this; they are thought-provoking. And I feel that aesthetisising disaster is sometimes the only way to provoke any thought about it at all. We all have automatic defense mechanisms that enable us to block things out if those things will remind us of something sad or unpleasant. So in a way aesthetic can be used as a tool to combat that.