In Emily St.John Mandel’s Station Eleven, we are confronted with ideas of existentialism. What does it mean to exist, to be human? To be part of something much larger than ourselves and how what we choose to put in our spaces is a reflection of invisible aspects and values that we have. “We want to be remembered” (p.187) and what we leave behind is what we’ll be remembered by, do our lives reflect the legacy we want to be remembered for?
It’s the little things we miss. Throughout Parts 4 through 6 of Station Eleven, there are several instances where we see people at their most vulnerable moments, moments where they realize just how small yet intrinsic they are to the clockwork that is humanity, moments where these people realize just exactly what it is they will miss about life moving forward. There are several references to the objects that they will miss and while this may seem superficial and may speak to theories of consumerism and how it relates to existentialism I believe that at their very heart it’s just a show of how meaningful things can become to us. For Jeevan it’s cappuccinos, for Kirsten it’s the Station Eleven comic books, for August it’s television. Slowly, we begin to realize that these people are more than the objects they’ll miss, rather, it’s about what’s attached to those objects that they don’t want to forget. It needn’t be complicated memories like Kirsten’s, just the simple sense of availability and stability, a pleasure that just won’t be around anymore. There is a certain sense of security attached to the objects we have in our daily lives, they’re constants, reminding us that certain things in life don’t change, and it is this inventible withdrawal that happens when they’re gone that is a painful reminder of what once was, and just how something existed at a certain point in time, frozen only in memory. In part 5, in the interview with Kirsten and Diallo, Kristin points out that “…it seem[s] like the people who struggle the most with it are the people who remember the old world clearly […] The more you remember the more you’ve lost.”(p.196)
There is this belief that being attached to objects and certain things is superficial and materialistic, somewhat vain even. We know this debate well in our day and age with things like cell phones and computers and the internet. Many reduce the debate to a sort of technology is making us more superficial conclusion and ignore arguments that are larger, we ignore the complexities that technology brings to us. The truth is that the internet and technology, like phones and computers, are nothing more than objects, the internet perhaps something a little more but still a human creation. There is this intrinsic humanity in the nature of things, they were created for and to accommodate us, “There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.” (p.178) Many people that hold up this argument against technology forget that before computers it was books, before it was books it was slates, and before it was slates it was rocks and caves. People have always been “minimally present.”(p.164) Things hold meaning to us as a species, humans are attracted to things. We put value on things simply because they’re pretty. Diamonds and gold there’s no intrinsic value to them, people, as a species just found them incredibly beautiful and so we made it worth what we thought it should be worth for no real reason, honestly. The aesthetic sense of humanity is reflected in what we put most value on, it could be considered our legacy, what we held to the utmost standard of worthy, what we held the most beautiful. It’s the idea of people coming back to learn about us, the history we leave behind and what people get from that, who were we? who are we?
All the objects we surround ourselves with are a visual interpretation of what our values are. These things and their meanings are invisible to us, almost. Only invisible until we don’t have them anymore.