When I was a kid all I did was read.  Every month I’d devour each syllable of the new National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines.  I read cover to cover all of our coffee table books, Harvard classics and even the Encyclopedia Britannia sets (and cereal box backs!) when I’d run out of other things to read.  LOVE history, geography, natural sciences and sociology.  To this day I tell friends with kids that I believe I learned more, infinitely more, from all of the reading I did on my own than I really learned in school.  English class might have taught me some formalities, but I can read and write like I do because of my free time activities.  I feel as though I’ve already been to every country and experienced every odd animal and cultural oddity, because reading is being, for me.

As much as I love books, it was what I chose to read that became important to me.

My title comes from a really cool youtube video recording of a talk by British philosopher Alan Watts called *what if money was no object* that I have been pondering a bit today while thinking about a job I recently applied for with UNESCO Education sector.

Why pondering and why UNESCO?   (I think great Scott, why didn’t I think of it earlier?!)

I’ve been continuing research on the ins and outs of working as a Design Strategist, including reading an interesting book called  A Fine Line, about the subject.  But I have been feeling deeply uncomfortable with the idea of working in a field driven by consumption, because I don’t want to work doing anything I feel contributes to the decline of the environment.  Thankfully A Fine Line transitioned (on the day I was worrying about the environment most) into a section on environmentally responsible design and how the industry is moving towards sustainable design and production.

So, okay…feeling a little better about all that, but still I really want to do work that is valuable for the world (not valuable for people at the expense of the world) and will contribute to a better future. Questioning getting into a product design field is part of that.

Around this time I came across a piece of news about Syria that fired me up and led me to the position I applied for at UNESCO.  When I applied for that job, and increasingly since, I realized that although there are countless things I find interesting and would love to participate in or pursue (and will, any chance I get) there is only one thing that reaches into my soul and makes me absolutely, beside-myself, physically-grabbed-and-shaken-by-it, passionately, lividly and absolutely driven to DO something whether anybody will hire me to do it or not.

Our history.  Cultures, more specifically their arts and architecture.  And the learning and appreciation and preservation of it all for the future.

OUR history… Which doesn’t belong to anyone, and isn’t anybodies to destroy.

A week or two ago I read in the news that all six World Heritage sites in Syria have been damaged or destroyed

Did anybody even notice that?

ALL of them.  For me it feels like somebody took all my childhood best imaginary friends and shat on them.  How would you feel?

I read the article and it broke my heart. No…  It made me want to crawl out of my own skin, grab the closest weapon and personally hunt down whoever did the damage, regardless of whether they were government, rebel or fundamentalist.  I don’t care who did it, I just want to destroy them.  And if that isn’t passion, I don’t know what is.  It made me want to cry, more than hearing about the deaths from chemical weapons, more than thinking about all those refugees streaming into Jordan for escape – as gut wrenchingly sad as all that is.

The unthinking destruction of OUR history is unthinkable and unforgivable, to me.

The last time I felt that was when I heard about the Taliban destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

But that feeling wasn’t heart-break.  I remember it clearly, because it was instantaneous and took me by surprise.  It was furious, murderous rage.  Helpless, wall punching rage.  I cannot fully express my visceral reaction to these acts.

Did I punch walls? No, I didn’t. And no, I’m not a violent person.  And no, I’m not looking for a job killing people.  I’m just talking about what MOVES me, in relation to my personal career change quest.  I might seem melodramatic but I’m not, I’m simply not afraid to express exactly what I mean in words just strong enough to really make the reader feel it. 

But seriously, if there’s a word bigger than furious I need to know what it is for this post.

The point is, punishment isn’t really a feasible career path for me, but preservation and education are well within my abilities.

The first time I really registered this feeling was in 2002 while watching Band of Brothers with an ex-boyfriend.  I saw some gorgeous building in France, a monastery or convent or church or chateau (who cares, it was gorgeous) blown up and my reaction was immediate, visceral and vocal.

It started a fight when said ex- lost his shiznit** and started yelling at me about how disgusted he was that I was more upset over “the idea of loss of a building than the loss of all those American lives.”  “How dare I not value all those soldiers…. blah blah blah white noise.”

I’m a former Marine, I don’t take those losses lightly.  Okay, I see his point.  I see how I’m not politically correct and I see how I can be misunderstood and cause offense.

My reply to him was that men start wars, men fight wars, men create physical conflict where they kill each other (and sometimes more often, innocent bystanders).   So fine, kill each other.  After all, it seems to be a biological imperative for some.  **That romantic relationship didn’t last much longer.

I just don’t see where choosing to fight gives them the right to destroy the hard work of thousands of years of history in their aggression.  To destroy the cultural accomplishments of millenia, and destroy their own children’s future.

So what else am I, about this particular passion of mine?


And that tells me something about this whole career change process, which is – why am I pondering multiple creative avenues, simply because I’m a creative person, but not pursuing this one thing that to me is so important it’s worth figuratively killing for?

Ha…then again, if UNESCO reads this they might assume I’m some wingnut psychopath and not consider hiring me.

I’m not! I have references. (psst, call me!)

Bamiyan – UNESCO youtube

Syria – UNESCO youtube

14 Responses to If Money Was No Object *Slighty* Bloody Rant

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    Seems like that organization would be a good fit for you. With your passion and global experience, I’ve always thought getting your MPH degree would be a good avenue for you as well. There’s so much more to public health than vaccines and clean water. Creative minds and innovators like you are just what the field needs.

    • Carrie Rubin says:

      By the way, I just sent out a friend request to you on Goodreads. How have I not done that yet?! I saw you read Bill Maher’s book ‘The New Rules…’. What did you think of it? Although I don’t agree with all his views, I laughed my head off.

      • Andrea says:

        I’ll go accept! I don’t get notifications from good reads so ?? That book had me howling laughing. I know people hate Maher because of his manner, but I agree with most of what he says. Honestly in the beginning (after 9/11) I agreed with a lot of Bill O’Reillys spewings until I realized… Um, no I don’t. To me Maher is the same guy, but with a soul, a brain and ethics. But still, kind of a dick. A misogynist dick (THAT I do dislike about him).

        • Carrie Rubin says:

          Yes, I’m not a fan of that last part either. But I read that book while I waited at the music store for my son to finish his lessons. I laughed out loud so much, I think the other two women in there thought I was psycho.

    • Andrea says:

      You qualified that perfectly for me by saying its not about vaccines and water! Haahahahahaaa! I’ll go research the field. My one certainty about it is that I know me, the preservation of life isn’t a priority for me. The education of the living, and value for our cultural heritage is. I’d lose interest pretty quickly just taking care of the bodies, without their minds taking priority. I don’t say this lightly, I KNOW there are people who would violently disagree, but I also know there are people who will take care of the bodies and the tummies because it matters to them. I hate to see people suffer, or starve, but it doesn’t fire me up to work or help. But if the bad guys showed up at the end and blew up the starving people’s 800 year old mud brick church upsetting their souls and ending their history… That I’d work for.

      Rambling— I’ll go research the field. Who knows, you might have hit it on the head, and I might be underestimating it! 🙂 thanks girlie!

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Um, now that I read your response, maybe it’s not the field for you. 😉

      • I have an MPH – it is mostly about making the living healthier and preventing disease and death. It’s also about educating people’s minds to treat themselves and the environment better. However, my professional bias is toward policy and law and not individual education, so I work more on policy with business and legislators. Because, just because people KNOW something doesn’t mean they will act on it. Quite often, they don’t act in ways aligned with what they know. For a lot of reasons – addictive behaviors (which I believe applies to food, exercise, cell phones not just drugs), systemic issues, corporate interests, etc. all make it hard to act healthier based on what we know. The car industry invented suburbs. No matter how much we might believe we should walk more and we know that’s healthier for us, we are forced to rely on cars in the U.S. suburbs. That’s the limit of education. There is an area of public health that works on population control issues – that’s fascinating. And there’s an area that works on environmental issues, trying to make the planet a healthier place to live. I’m not sure if there’s much in the field about historical structures though. Culture is a big underpinning throughout public health. I do believe the type of person who would support what you are saying tends to be drawn to public health.

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    It sounds like you may have found your calling. The targeting of an “enemy’s” historic treasures (cultural, religious, or whatever is deemed important) has been part of warfare from the beginning, precisely for its psychological effects on a population. From an anthropological perspective, it’s why I think the 9/11 attacks didn’t have the crushing effects the perpetrators had desired. Frankly, the WTC and Pentagon weren’t viewed by everyday Americans as something deeply/culturally/historically/spiritually “American.” But consider if the targets were the Statue of Liberty or a quintessential “small town in the American Heartland,” or the Super Bowl. I think our reactions would have been far more visceral.

    Even if this position doesn’t come through, I think you now have a good handle on the types of positions and organizations that would make your work life rewarding. Fingers crossed for you!

    • Andrea says:

      Thank you 🙂 And interesting perspective on 9/11!

    • andrea1 says:

      Hi again! Sorry for the short reply, it was super early morning and I’d woken for the bathroom, still groggy. I guess I started to reply and then realized in the morning how lame it was because what I was thinking was way more than it appears I typed!

      I really was interested in your perspective, and I agree. I kinda found it “typical” that military and financial icons were hit, but weirdly it never occurred to me to wonder why they didn’t hit the Lincoln Memorial or Statue of Liberty. For me that would have been a bigger insult (despite fewer deaths), but I guess AlQ really wanted to go for max damage. It would be interesting to know if they considered a different type of target. Sadly, I think far FAR too many people in this country value the military and financial more than the truly cultural.

      I do have a more clear idea of what’s important to me, in addition to just what I find interesting. I find everything interesting, so it makes it hard to settle on a career. But this subject isn’t interest, it’s deeper than that. Thanks for the well wishes! 🙂

    • I lived near Mall of America in Minnesota on 9/11 and there were fighter jets circling overhead that night. I always wondered if they wanted to affect our economy, wouldn’t that have been a symbol? And shopping is a big part of American culture.

  3. Hi Andrea, I do believe our feelings reflect our values. If something makes you mad or feel anything significantly above and beyond our normal daily baseline feelings, there’s something behind that to pay attention to!

    I agree with you on this point. It took me awhile to comment because this post reminds me of something that happened that makes both my husband and me so mad. The village in South India where my husband’s ancestors are from had a Hindu temple. The temple was 200 years old, 600 years old, who knows, many stories and accuracy about history wasn’t important to the people telling the stories. It was definitely several hundred years old or more. A bunch of people including my father-in-law said they were “restoring” the temple. And they had to raise US $250,000 to pay for it. Ungodly amount of money there. Turns out, they knocked the temple down. It was reduced to rubble. Before this happened, my husband had visited and took pictures. It looked like a mini Angkor Wat. Beautiful carvings in stone and wood. Yes, old, but they could be restored. But people get egos and right now they want NEW. And they want to show that they have the economic muscle to build new. That’s probably the more important factor. Well it all fell apart. The temple is now crushed rubble. They can’t raise the money. So there’s no temple at all now. We told them they should have talked with us first – all those old carvings are worth LOTS of $$$! You can’t export antique religious things out of India easily now but I’m sure we could have figured something out, even if pieces of the temple were sold within India. People with means in the U.S. pay $10K+ for a piece of “junk” like that – I’ve seen temple remnants sold in many places. Yes, FIL said the whole temple was “junk” and worthless. I don’t think he understands what we’re trying to tell him enough to even have regrets about their decisions.

    Regarding raising money for them now, why would anyone want to pay money to build a new temple in the far rural forests of South India? There’s no one there to even visit a temple. But restoring a structure hundreds of years old, I think we could have sold the idea of architectural preservation. There are organizations there working hard to preserve old temples that would have support that. No one cares about building new except the people who want to brag about it.

    I’m writing this sounding okay now but earlier this year there was a lot of anger about this. I would caution, though, that while these feelings can be motivational, they can also be destructive to those of us trying to help. My husband and I had such a strong reaction to what happened, it got negative for us all and we had to back off and just let his family live with their decisions. I’m not religious but for those who are, I respect their needs for these places and as you say, it’s culture and history that can enrich the world for everyone. Some may not see what we’re arguing for when we say that. But try imagining the opposite – spanking new everything. Imagine being surrounded only by newness. How soulless is that? It’s like living in a Walmart.

%d bloggers like this: