Nostalgia

It’s a strange emotion. Nostalgia is basically bittersweet by definition: simultaneously a happy remembrance of “the good ol’ days” and a wistful yearning to return to the simplicity and peace of those times. I’ve never really thought too deeply into the experience of nostalgia before, but now that I’m back home, surrounded by faces I haven’t seen in a year and running through a village I’ve made lots of memories in, I’ve been struck by how odd the mind’s rose-tinted recollections of the times gone by are. After all, it wasn’t as if I actually had no problems back then! People always have anxieties and insecurities, and many of those that I had then I still do today! I bet nostalgia’s existence is directly tied in to the natural human fear of change. It’s the mind telling you, “remember how great things have been? You don’t want to lose what you have, do you?” I’ve been doing my best to take such impulses with a grain of salt, and being excited about the future as well as content with the past. The times I’ve had have been great, but I’m looking forward to making the times to come even better!

27 Emotions, Tons of Gifs

I know you all need an extra source of distraction during finals period, so here you go! This is an interactive map of the 27 basic emotional states, as devised by scientists at UC Berkeley. There are hundreds of gifs and videos included, that appear when you scroll over them and which will make you feel the entire spectrum of emotions! The map captures well how different emotions blend into one another, and how viscerally certain things can make us feel one way or another. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, so check it out for yourself!

Larger Than Life

“Larger Than Life,” Backstreet Boys

I’ve heard people described as this as well as met some people who I think would fall into this category. They are supremely charismatic, outrageously funny, refreshingly unfiltered, and often are captivating storytellers who can entrance a room but who can also make an individual feel heard and special. Although, someone like Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby also might be considered larger than life for his reputation and the luxurious parties he throws…but except for a formal speech, he stands to the side at his parties and silently scans the crowds for his one-and-only, Daisy. So I guess my definition of “larger than life” should broaden and really just encompass those who are memorable and story worthy, for one reason or another, and act a little bit like this life isn’t quite good enough for them. It might just be me, but I could see larger than life people being supremely well-liked or well-regarded, but maybe unsatisfied because they’re always striving for what they don’t still have…like Gatsby with Daisy. But if Daisy loved him, would he be content? But is the reason that she can’t love him because he is too full of himself? Is being larger than life something to aspire to or does it cause more net unhappiness? Can it even be aspired to or is it more innate?

In Praise of Unnecessary Knowledge

A few days ago, I started a new daily habit of writing a fun fact on the whiteboard on the door to my room. These facts aren’t things I learn in class. They aren’t “life hacks” or inspirational quotes. They are true facts about things that have happened in the past or about the way things are, and they are completely inconsequential, of no practical use to anyone. And that’s why they’re great!

Learning is not something that should always be a chore. Discovering more about the world around us should be fun and awe-inspiring! I want to do my part to kindle the joy of discovery in people around me, and in myself too. Fun facts, trivia, unnecessary knowledge are perfect for such inspiration. They don’t carry any responsibility with them. You don’t need to act upon them, you don’t even need to remember them! You just need to enjoy them and appreciate knowing something more about the fascinating world we live in.

Getting the Words Out

https://introvertdear.com/news/the-science-behind-why-introverts-struggle-to-speak/

I don’t know if I’d consider myself an introvert and so I was initially turned off by the title of this article. But once I read the article, I came to accept that maybe I do have more introverted qualities than I thought (I know, people, this shouldn’t be something I have to “come to accept,” but alas, I haven’t quite shed myself of the negative connotations associated with introversion I learned at some point down the road). A lot of the article was very relatable, especially when it comes to finding difficulty getting the right words out in class/in a conversation with someone. At Williams, so much quality content comes my way in class and in conversation that it takes me some time to process it to give it a reply that does it justice. But it seems like everyone else’s brains work a lot faster (a special shoutout to my PolySci lawyers-in-the-making friends) and I’m often left struggling to inject some coherent fragments into the five second space allotted me.

I want to become a faster thinker and processor, but also don’t want to compromise the thoughtfulness of my responses. I love late-night conversations the best because they tend to be slightly slower and more drawn out, giving me more time to formulate my replies, yet just as (if not more) rich.

Beethoven and Greene

I’m someone who has always loved hearing and learning stories, and ever since I was young, many of my favorite songs have been those with distinct, unique stories embedded in them. For me, the depth and coherence of a narrative structure can combine beautifully with the emotional and aesthetic intensity of music to create masterpieces of art. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that one of my favorite bands, Twiddle, has many songs that tell vivid stories to the listeners and feature a wide cast of iconic characters.

“Beethoven and Greene,” however, doesn’t have characters of its own, but instead is about stories in general and about how we are each the protagonists of our own life stories. As the song progresses, the lyrics bring the listener through the archetypal hero’s journey, while the structure mirrors a traditionally told story, repeated through generations.

Instead of creating a character of their own for “Beethoven and Greene,” Twiddle instead tells a story about “you.” In doing so, they make the hero’s journey more real and universal for listeners, as something that everyone can experience. This universality is also noticeable in the rather general, almost cliche aspects of adventure laid out in the song: leaving home on a train, a magic incantation, a gate that must be opened, and most centrally, the potion that grants the drinker their true self and best life. The potion, as the central focus of the song, represents everything that we hope to gain from the adventures of our lives: happiness, wisdom, purity, confidence, etc.

Aside from the hero’s journey nature of the lyrics, other elements of “Beethoven and Greene” suggest to me a story being told time and time again, undergoing changes but still suggesting the same universal truth of a quest towards betterment. Listening to the song for the first time, it’s unlikely that the listener will catch all of the details and specifics of the story, but will still be able to recognize its main theme and plot. This is especially true in for the first chorus. It’s dense and complex, and not easily sung along to, but in the first few listens I was still able to pick out “….all your past doubts….wake up and hope….a little sunshine….pick up and go,” where the pace slows down at the end of each line. This is just like when you’re being told a story by someone: many of the details are lost, but certain words, phrases, punchlines are remembered, along with the general theme and message of the story. When you then tell the story to someone else, you’ll likely add your own flair and details of your own, changing the story while keeping some core constant.

The second chorus comes into play here. It’s the easiest part of the lyrics to understand and learn, and thus takes the role of the core of the story. Even it is not immune to being changed, since the melody of the chorus is changed after it is sung once and this original melody is never repeated, but after the lengthy instrumental section, which I take to be a jump forward through time, it is all that remains of the lyrics, as the core of the story is carried into the future.

I could go on, there’s so much to this song, but this post has become a behemoth as is, so I’ll leave the rest for you to discover as you enter Beethoven and Greene!

“You can’t tell anyone what to value.”

https://www.lifeadvancer.com/traits-open-minded-people/
The economics teacher at my high school, who I only knew through his role as my assistant basketball coach, said this to me and it has stuck with me ever since. Thinking about it in terms of majors, it means that we shouldn’t denounce someone for choosing to major in Econ and “selling their soul to Wall Street” so that they can make a lot of money. It also means that we shouldn’t disparage someone for “taking easy classes” and going into education where they’ll make significantly less money. Different people value different things because of: How they were raised
  • How they define success
  • Their personality
  • Their experiences
  • And other very personal, very variable things
The only thing we can hope is that everyone is OPEN to their values changing. What does this mean? It means being open to: DISCUSSION
  • CONVERSATION
  • DISCOURSE
  • DIALOGUE
  • EXCHANGE
  • THE SYNONYMS GO ON for what is 2+ people sitting around a table talking and listening
with people who have different values from their own (which is, hint, everyone…it’s just a matter of how different) This discussion will never happen if we put our heads down and move through college like it’s just the next wrung of a ladder, the means to an end, a diploma-pumping machine (insert another tired cliche here if you please). If you wanted to do that, you should have just taken college online because it would have been a lot cheaper. “Oh, but it’s not as prestigious and I’d get lonely,” you say. Well, maybe that loneliness and that hunger to be pushed beyond the material would make you appreciate and take advantage of the prestige and tight-knit community of a place like Williams. Maybe a taste of online education should be a pre-req for admittance. The point of a college having a campus is to give the bright, hopefully unjaded 18-22ish year-olds a place to talk about and debate what makes life worth living and how to go about living life that way. The thing is: we’re probably not going to get this straight from a class…or at least not from the limited number of classes we’re able to take. That’s why we need to talk and reflect with our peers. To hear about the classes we’re not in. To hear about the lives we’re not leading. And to check and see if what we think is valuable actually is. Doing so will allow us to value and get value out of this fine education.

Liberal Arts

Division III knows the world is made of numbers.

Division II knows the world is made of ideas.

Division I knows the world is made of stories.

And they are all correct. The great privilege of a liberal arts education is being able to learn what all of these different ways of looking at the world have to offer. We can explore around and between the regions of human experience and knowledge that are often sharply divided and forcibly separated.

“Depth and Breadth” is the slogan that’s often used. Depth is fantastically challenging and rewarding. Depth is when you travel to the frontiers of human knowledge, and join the noble quest to expand them further, to map new territory and bring back the treasures you discover. However, I’ve been even more gratified so far by what I’ve gotten from Breadth. For Breadth is (to carry on the metaphor) a weaving, winding, wandering journey through the very heartlands of humanity. With Breadth you strive not to the frontiers and fringes of knowledge, but towards the center, the hub around which the great mental landscape revolves. This turns out to also be a difficult journey, though for different reasons, and is one that is arguably even more valuable than that of Depth.

Anyway, I’m writing this post to remind myself that, despite how difficult or trivial our journeys through academia might sometimes seem, it’s absolutely worthwhile for the discoveries that will be made, and for the people that we will become in the process.

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