Bubbles—we’re bubbles. Homo bulla—it’s a Latin expression that appears in the first line of Varro’s Rerum Rusticarum, from sometime around 60 BC. “Man is a bubble” is what it means.
But what does it mean to be a bubble? Are we now digital bubbles today? Would you just pop or float away—and is “away” gray death or simply somewhere else, beyond these quiet confines? How are you, bubble?
They’re ephemeral as we all know, but bubbles are beautiful too. In fact, such ephermality might be a prerequisite for beauty, knowing we’re lovely because we can’t last.
1527 or thereabouts: the expression homo bulla was revived by Erasmus, in his collection of Greek and Latin proverbs, and it floated through the artwork of the next few days, and by days I mean years, and by years I mean centuries—though what does time matter to you, bubble?
In this artwork, the bubble appeared next to other vanitas symbols—candles, clocks, dying flowers, rotting fruit—to remind us of the brutal brevity of existence. Still, remember that summer when you seemed to spend an entire afternoon blowing bubbles, silly bubbles, and we tried to catch them?
What does the brevity of existence have to do with such shared giddiness and glee? And anyway, who takes the bubble so seriously? Although it may be imprudent to ask, still I wonder, where are you off to next, bubble?