Editors' Letters: Filling the Void
Siqi Liu, Natasha Lasky, Ella Bartlett
Image by Priscilla Hong.
My first confrontation with the void was in third grade, sitting on the primary color carpet during silent reading time, thumbing through a picture book about the sun. But when I flipped to the last page, I didn’t find the planet diagrams and star illustrations I was used to; instead there was a giant picture of a dark, post-apocalyptic wasteland, like an empty desert at night only with the added eeriness of a lack of any stars or moon. The text read, “In about 5 billion years the sun will use up all its fuel and turn into a “red giant,” becoming hot enough to evaporate the oceans, kill off plants and bacteria, and effectively destroy all traces of life on earth.” I lingered on the page for a moment. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the sun could just burn out like a lightbulb left on too long. This is what’s going to happen when I grow up? Death? The Apocalypse? Perhaps noticing that I had been staring blankly at a single page for the past eight minutes, my teacher asked what was wrong.
When I explained to her that my problem was not about needing to go to the bathroom or wanting to go to recess but rather that the sun was going to explode and we’re all going to die, she paused, not quite sure how to respond. After a few seconds of careful consideration, she said the only thing anyone can say to a third grader who has just realized the nature of her own mortality: “Don’t worry, that won’t happen for a long time.”
That worked, for a while. But “that won’t happen for a long time” gets less useful the older you get. I kept returning back to that image of the wasteland, the image of my future, of everyone’s future. As I got older I continued having these “moods,” as my family would put it, where I would be lying in bed at night or taking a shower or pouring cereal in my bowl for breakfast and suddenly become obsessed with the point. As in, if everything we do is going to disappear, why should I do anything at all? What is the meaning of life, the point?
As I got older, I still had existential moments, but I decided that obsessing over death and the meaning of life was juvenile and pretentious. I was not going to be a groan-inducing amateur philosopher. You know the type: the hoodie-clad stoner who has just taken Philosophy 101 and now considers himself Aristotle 2.0, who poses such essential questions that no one actually cares about like “What if this is all just a dream?” or “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it still make a sound?” with a self-satisfied smirk.
But the problem with the void is ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. But then again, neither does obsessing over it. This issue is called “filling the void,” as if the void can truly be filled. But maybe it’s not so much about filling the void, but about finding our place in it.
With spring comes a vibrancy of colors that saturate the barren space that was once winter. Spring is like watching a pool be filled with clear blue water, like the warming of a good memory. Spring is the wind imbued with sun and scents of flowers, things you thought you might have forgotten; spring is dancing in a warmth that now shows itself in fullness. Spring is inhaling all the colors of a rainbow after the whiteness of the cold has disappeared.
To me, this issue is akin to watching the myriad of colors blossom out from the depths of winter. So many pieces in this issue have made me see a different hue of the world. Our writers write about raspberries and capturing laughter through a camera lens and the motherhood represented in a scarlet shawl. Our artists capture the colors behind a human expression, cityscapes, leaves. Even for someone who is not a visual artist, I know art is about exposing colors, trying out colors, and eventually finding the right colors to communicate a story.
Granted, we all see colors in a slightly different way than anyone else. My bluegreen might be your cobalt. We could never know if my visible light spectrum is shifted a quarter of a shade to the right in comparison to yours. In this way, the colors I see are uniquely mine. But isn’t art about communicating the vibrancies of life we see to others? The colors that a poet unearths are their own, but when put on a page. The reader is able to see their own colors in the colors already on the page.
Every time I place pencil to page, a cherry blossom tree waves its hand at me from outside my window, and I hope readers can see the beauty I see in their own specific way. I have a feeling the artists in this issue had the same idea. Inhale, open your eyes, and let the colors make their way into your view.
“Void” is one of my favorite words because it’s so versatile. It could mean anything from a vacuum to an empty room, some sort of a gaping hole in the ground to that space in your life for someone you’ve lost. But this issue’s theme, “Filling the Void,” got me thinking that there’s more to void than emptiness. The more I thought about the idea of emptiness, the more I realized that it is only defined by its contrast: We think of loss in terms of what is lost, and vacancy in terms of what is missing. By simply conjuring up the idea of a void, we inevitably think about what has filled or could fill the void.
If void is the negative space in the photograph– the quietness of a room after the party is over, the deleted text messages on your phone–then the only way of describing a void is by capturing what has passed or what has been lost. We commemorate these past fleeting moments through thinking about them, writing about them, and making art about them. For me, so many pieces in this issue fill this void through art. They bravely discuss loss and emptiness by commemorating those beautiful moments that we all know are fleeting but that take our breath away anyway.
For me, this issue is also an ode to the things that have ended. It reminds me of the saying “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” and cheesy pop songs like “Let Her Go.” Sometimes, we find ourselves having to fill a void that we didn’t know would be there. We lose keys, gifts, books, privileges, trust. We lose people. Sometimes, we find catharsis for the things we’ve lost through art. We have to.