If Nothing Matters, Anything Can Matter

Mr. Heidkamp’s talk about the meaning of life brought up the idea that anything we feel, or any meaning we find in life–love, relationships, the pursuit of happiness–is an illusion created by the society we live in. In a sense, he said that nothing truly matters, has intrinsic value, or is “real”. I would argue that because nothing matters, it doesn’t matter if something is “real” or not. If we believe something to be true or if we value a particular thing, that should be enough. It is unnecessary to get bogged down with the details of whether something is an inherent truth or whether we have been conditioned to think so by society.

Take love, for example. Mr. Heidkamp questioned the existence of love and whether it is something natural or something created by society. As and I and other students pointed out, it shouldn’t matter whether love is real and natural or not. We feel what we believe to be love for other people, we think that it is real, and it doesn’t matter if love is actually an illusion because believing in love doesn’t hurt anyone. Believing in all of these things that could be illusions just helps us to enjoy life and to find our own meaning in it.

If nothing matters and everything is an illusion, choosing to reject that idea, and to believe that there are some transcendent truths to life, doesn’t matter either. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, we can do whatever we want and believe whatever we want. Anything can matter.

Power in “Dry”

This summer, for my summer reading book, I choose to read Dry, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman. This book, set sometime in the future, details the events following a massive drought and subsequent water shortage in California.

Throughout the book, the authors illustrate the power dynamics at play within this water shortage. Those who have water have the power; those who do not are at the mercy of those who do.

While this is a central and reccuring theme throughout the book, it is most clearly demonstrated in Chapter 18, regarding a character named Henry. While everyone scrambles for the little water left in the area, Henry has a stockpile of water bottles in his home, and has been trading this water to his neighbors in return for expensive items. Henry holds all of the power in these negotiations; he does not need his neighbors’ items, but they need his water. When one of his neighbors makes a deal he doesn’t like, Henry acts as if the negotiation has ended and says, “If you’re not serious about this, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave” (Shusterman 188). Instantly, the neighbor scrambles to give Henry what he wants, so that he can gain access to the precious water Henry has to offer.

Henry and his negotiations are just one example of the power dynamics that play out throughout the book. Dry is an example of how important systems and dynamics of power are to storytelling, and how nearly every story is connected to power structures in one way or another.

The Remote in Escape from Spiderhead

Escape from Spiderhead is all about power dynamics and binaries. There is a very clear power dynamic from the very beginning: Abnesti is in the position of power, and Jeff is required to submit to him. This power dynamic is reinforced by the technology of the world in which the story is set, as it states early on in the story, “Abnesti used his remote. My MobiPak whirred” (45). Abnesti has the control in this situation, because he has the remote. As the story continues, we see the way that Abnesti exercises his power over Jeff and other subjects and finally, at the end of the story, Jeff takes back power by using the remote himself. The remote in this story is a tangible representation of the power dynamic regarding Abnesti, Jeff, and the others.