November 20, 2015

The Nihilism out Here on the Ol’ Missile Range Resort Will Slap You in the Face like a Tipsy Friend

By Paula D. Barteau
White Sands 
October 22, 2015

It feels like a video game out here. The sky looks like a lake and if you lie down at the lowest point in the land scape the clouds look like reflections of the dunes that graze them. Planes fly over the park regularly, not the kind that are full of people. The kind that kill people. Everyone around us is playing.
I think about Alan Moore's Watchmen, the part where you realize what's been happening on that island all along.  I wrote a paper in a freshman philosophy class about Laurie Juspeczyk and the concept of Free Will. I got unanimously positive feedback on it, someone wrote "mindblower 10/10" on the back before handing it back.  It's the only thing I have written for school that I've ever wanted to reread and my hard drive ate it.

I think about my chemistry teacher in high school who, apparently tired of chemistry as a topic, spent a class period justifying to us why bombing Japan in WWII was objectively the correct moral course of action. His mental gymnastics routine looked something like, America is the greatest country in the world and not bombing Japan would have changed American culture and this would somehow be a great historical loss. He tried to support his side by positing the one we've all heard, that not using the atom bombs would have led to more deaths than using them. This was not his central point though and he did not invite us to examine it.
I start to feel sick. Maybe it's the fumes from my emergency blanket structure, maybe it's fumes from something else, maybe it's just the last day of the last trip.

I think about over population and how there can't just magically be less of us. I think about the mechanisms of exploitation and dehumanization. I wonder if the dead can forgive and if this is the same question as whether you have to listen to the living if you can dismiss them instead.
I write a joke for Fred in the sand and hope no one asks me about it.
I think about robots playing, about consciousness you can't see because you are conditioned not to believe in it.
I feel like an alien that's about to explode, so I take a walk.

On the way back to camp I find an elaborate design traced in the sand catching the light from the setting sun in its grooves. This is my favorite part of Land Arts, stumbling unexpectedly into someone else's art.

Everyone is dancing when I get back to camp. We dance, we sled, we try to eat all of the food left in the coolers and bins, and we learn a dance called Strip the Willow.

There is nothing like this course. So many people have helped us in different ways on our various trips, and this last leg couldn't have happened without the extreme generosity of a park volunteer named Ron who let us sleep on his floor instead of braving an incoming thunder and hail storm.

I am sad for many things, but grateful for just as many.

DFTBA everybody

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