Thomas Jefferson saying

Thomas Jefferson wrote this saying to Henry Dearborn, secretary of war, in 1807.

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic people’s lives have been rather stressful. Since my wife works intensively as one of the first responders at Carle Hospital, the whole family felt we really needed to take a break and escape temporarily from this unusual work and life situation to regenerate ourselves.  

So we took a break for 10 days, and my family drove more than 2,000 miles, passing through seven states to visit the Shenandoah National Park and visited my wife’s parents and our daughter’s family.   

Unexpectedly, the first day on our trip a Facebook friend shared this quotation with us, “We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.”

Though we do not know where or from whom this quotation comes, it totally inspired us and changed the whole atmosphere of our trip from trying to temporarily escape the stressful life during the pandemic to capturing the life experience under such an unusual circumstance.

From a philosophical point of view we have been offered “the gift of crisis.” The Greek root of the word crisis is “to sift,” to shake out the excess and leave only what’s important. That’s what crises do; they shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most. The rest falls away.

Because of this positive and appreciative attitude toward life, we found the entire trip valuable and enjoyable. Though physically we had to keep social distancing, mentally and culturally we felt so much closer and caring to the people and natural world we had encountered during the trip.      

On our way back home, unexpectedly but sadly, I got an email from Rantoul Press Editor Dave Hinton, who informed me the Rantoul Press would cease publishing and this would be my final column of Art = Life in the newspaper.

It is hard to believe my monthly column started in 2007. It has focused on mainly local artists, arts and social cultural life for the last 13 years. For about 10 years during the Boneyard Arts Festival month in April, my Prairie Village Retirement Center sponsored the art exhibition site for our Rantoul community and got many local school students and local residents to participate.

Due to the popularity and large number of participants, the column featuring the festival artists and artwork on display had to be split into two parts and published in the Press for two consecutive weeks. Therefore, in total, I wrote more than 160 columns and featured several hundred artists and their artwork during the life of the column.

At this final issue of the Rantoul Press and my last column, I do understand that without an end there would not be a new beginning. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my readers and Hinton for years of interaction and for our shared social cultural life together by borrowing what former UI art Professor Peter Bodnar autographed for me, “Thank you for being a part of my life.”

Also I want to emphasize that in the process of writing my columns, I got to meet and to know many good people, and I learned so much.  As a conclusion, here I would like to quote what I learned from my most recent trip to the historical home of Thomas Jefferson in Monticello, Va.

Jefferson wrote to Henry Dearborn, secretary of war, on June 22, 1807, ”The field of knoledge (sic) is the common property of all mankind, and any discoveries we can make in it will be for the benefit of yours  and of every other nation as well as our own.” (The museum display label describes, “This quotation is transcribed exactly as Jefferson wrote it.”)

Dr. Ian Wang is the curator of the Spurlock Museum and may be contacted by email at wangyu@illinois.edu