"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment... and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." -Thoreau

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Life at Carleton: The Maelstrom

When I told you I would write again soon... I lied.*
Granted, it wasn't a case of intentional deceit. It wasn't so much a hollow promise as it was a beautiful, ungraspable dream. Nevertheless, it was a false statement.

Why did I lie? That is, how did it come to be that life wrested control from my hands, such that I failed in this commitment?
I deluded myself into believing that a break meant time to engage in leisurely activities. Foolish.

See, life at Carleton is akin to getting sucked into some sort of whirlpool.
You begin the term with this visualization of a wonderful voyage through the profound waters of intellectualism and idealism. You imagine warm sunlight, the smell of the ocean spray, the rush of cold air filling your lungs to their very depth, the graceful arc of birds in flight, the lush greenery of uncharted lands... everything is vivid, robust... you feel alive and ready for adventure.
Classes? Challenging and exciting!
Volunteer work? Yes! Time to save the world!
Clubs? Join them all!
Friends? Party all day, everyday- or at least when not too busy saving the world.
I will go on strolls through the arb, I will read books in my spare time, I will write thoughtful life-reflections, I will meet new people and develop wonderful new relationships, I will exercise and stay in shape... I can and will do anything and everything! Just try and stop me, life!
This is the state of being one is in when stepping back onto Carletonian grounds- gazing at Willis Hall and the chapel with a smile of appreciation, confidently trekking the road back to "home," which, ironically, will serve as a barge carrying one into new and exciting lands.

Then you set sail.

It begins beautifully. There is the swell of pride and excitement as you embark, filled with hopes and dreams of all the wonderful things to be accomplished, all the adventures to be had, all of the new things to be seen and done. Perhaps there are a few rough patches in the initial sailing adventure- some rough waves that throw you off-balance, but you quickly catch yourself, reassure yourself, and sail on.

Before long though, something strange begins to happen... some force begins to divert the course of your ship... not much... but enough that it strikes you as strange.... Is something awry? But you do your best to suppress the concerns slowly rising to the surface of your mind.

But already, it is too late.
Your ship has chosen dangerous waters for its voyage... Forces far more powerful than you are in control. You find yourself at the edges of a whirlpool; a full-blown, mythical maelstrom.

It begins slowly at first. You stand at the rudder, concentrated on escaping the force drawing your vessel into its orbit.You try to save yourself. You think of the magical lands you were to explore, the exotic creatures you were to encounter, the many dreams which propelled your ship away from land. You try to wrest yourself away from this current, to escape, to sail off and find new lands, but your small ship is too weak, and it falls prey to the force of the vortex.
So there you are, swirling in circles ever-smaller, ever-faster, unyielding, and unstoppable, spinning away into the very heart of an ocean all too eager to claim you as its own...

As the end of term approaches, I find myself getting sucked deeper and deeper into that terrifying vortex. Midterm break was the hope of an escape, a hope that a relent in the current would allow me to escape, or to  at least swing into a wider orbit and gain a bit more of time and life. But I was grossly mistaken.

At present, my vessel is whirling away at impossible speeds. It will not be long before the ocean claims me as its own.

That's another way of saying I should really be studying for my linear algebra midterm, or working on my organic chemistry quiz,  or working on my ethics paper on the compatibility between utilitarianism and justice, or preparing for my orgo midterm, or working on my linear algebra or organic chemistry problem sets, or figuring out my classes for the next two terms...
Seventh and eighth week are truly akin to finding oneself in the midst of a maelstrom.

And now I must return to my sinking ship.

*Surely it is a worthy philosophical tidbit to ponder: Did I lie? Does lying require the intention of deceit? (I think that seems right.) But what if I was uncertain as to the veracity of the statement, decided to pass it off as a truth claim, and it proved false? Then should it be considered a lie?

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