The end of the world—a cataclysmic disaster that destroys all life as we know it—has gripped the popular imagination for millennia. Religions imagine it; believers wait for it; ethicists work to prevent it; and writers describe it, often in dramatic, adventurous detail.
And yes, unless our sun happens to find the fountain of youth during its whirling journey through the universe, one day it’s going to burp and fade away, swallowing our little, blue planet as it goes.
But we all know the end may come sooner than that, though, if our planet ends up not-so-blue either by event or accident. I once put a sandwich wrapped in aluminum foil in the microwave and set off a buzzing shower of damaging sparks. The world it seems, has quite a lot of similar foil lying around. It’s quite possible another hungry, ignorant person might just destroy the microwave before its time.
Sad to say, that wasn’t my only microwave mishap. There was also a time when I burned a hole straight through an English muffin, again quite by accident. The edges around it turned into this brown goo with slowly popping bubbles, like a tar pit waiting to swallow a woolly mammoth. It was both memorable and inedible.
But that is quite the point. Species live and die. Civilizations rise and fall. The microwave that bored through a muffin went on to perform the foil-induced spark show. Studying ancient history reveals so many worlds that ended. It was amazing to me to think, while walking through a cathedral in Lyons that the walls were older than my country. So many remnants of past worlds are even older still, having lasted for lengths of time I can’t even fathom before falling to dust, either by murder, wear or cataclysmic disaster, or sometimes simply by falling asleep.
Yet somehow they still survive. Bodies rise from the bogs, pyramids stand against the wind, centuries of once-living culture compacts into a single skull or pottery shard. To walk the beach is to tread on crushed remains from ancient oceans, of beings that once lived and died under the sun.
For me, courses are quite a lot like that—little worlds that rise and fall through the tides of a year or two, leaving parcels of information behind like all other leaky things in the universe. Sometimes it’s small things, amounting to barely an envelope; other times it’s a Pandora’s box that shifts the very ground I walk on. In both cases, what I study greatly affects my thinking, and if you listen to me long enough (or pretty much at all) all these bits and bubbles will start oozing out into the conversation and coming alive again, like a virus or a once-dehydrated tardigrade.
Sometimes the parcels take on a sinister form, like the wars and weapons in The Merman’s Mark, but mostly they just surface as tempera paints, becoming the means through which I draw and color the world.
If you’re the sort of person who likes to know what dodo eggs bind my paints or which colors to expect, below is a list of all the subjects I’ve studied at a university level, along with the workshops I’ve attended and courses I’ve followed. It’s not entirely exhaustive; there’s a lot I read about outside of classes as well, but it’s a fairly good picture of what I’ve encountered on this tiny, blue planet as it saunters around the sun.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Synoptic Gospels
Art History: Prehistory-Renaissance
English Language & Literature
Latin America & the Caribbean
Japanese Culture & Religion
South African Literature
The United States Experience
Strength of Materials
Perspectives on Life & Death
Roman Catholic Social Thought
Theology of Reconciliation & Justice
Philosophy & Religion
Christian Thought: Reformation-Modern
The Church in the World
The Development of Western Thought
The Evolution of the Western Idea since the 17th Century
Jesus & Socrates: Faith & Reason
Philosophy of Religion
Grass Roots Organizing
Workshops & Additional Classes
Silat: Malay Martial Arts
South African Sign Language
South African Wine
Astronautics & Human Spaceflight
Avian Care & Medicine