What Matters

I recently read a quote by Nietzsche that haunts me, as it is linked to something I have been pondering and working with for years. “Everything matters. Nothing is important.”

I was brought up by admirable parents and I have two brothers I love deeply. I met my husband only because he was in a car accident and broke his arm, causing him to repeat a night class at Wayne State University. I was in that same class and can’t imagine where else we might have crossed paths. Neither of us was ever “perfect” but we were “right” for one another. We had three children that are far better in every way than we ever were. I have always said they got all that was good in our genes and none of the regrettable bits. Perhaps they will save the world?

That is all important to me. But what happens to my stories? Who will remember them? When I die, and my two cousins die, my mother’s mother will die with us. We are the final people who knew and loved this woman–Alma Borchert—who was funny and smart and kind and the source of worthy ideas like, “You can not take back the spoken word.”

When I asked my mother to tell me about my great grandmother she said, “She smelled good.” Caroline Schacht had died of asthma when my mother was young. There is no remaining information about her daily life—what she ate, what made her laugh.

I have made artist’s books using family stories told to me by my mother. It is a small attempt to save information and share it with members of my family. The major thing I have come away with for myself while doing these projects is an understanding that what might truly matter personally is that we find some work that is important to us, that is not attached to anyone else’s opinions. And, in the community, it matters that a person does the right thing—and is kind—whether anyone else ever knows about it or even cares. I am getting old and many of the things I have watched people strive for are in no way important in the long run. It all fades. It disappears or is altered into a form that is probably not even true.

Live your life the best you can as you have only that one opportunity. That matters, even though it will not be important.

Karen Anne Klein has a B.S. in Design from the University of Michigan and a Master’s of Art from Wayne State University. Her work can be found in collections, including in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Hunt Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Museum of Modern Art, New York Public Library, University of Wisconsin – Madison Kohler Library, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and private collections. She produces drawings and books for her own private press, and cabinets of curiosities.

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