Have you ever stopped in the middle of your day and thought to yourself: “I live on a rock; a giant rock. And my life is only sustained because the rock I live on is zipping a million miles an hour around a floating ball of gas. And my life depends entirely on the consistency of that ball of gas.”
Strangely enough, this thought has become a refrain of mine over the last eight months. Reminding myself of this fact helps me to remember that this whole “life” thing is outrageously lucky. To just be here took unimaginable luck. Given these circumstance, I know that I must seize the day. Indeed, as Robin Williams suggested, I should suck the marrow out of the bone of life.
In my first eight months of college, I feel that everyday has been a quest to relish all of the beauty of the floating space rock. At Duke, everyday is a new learning experience, and for me, this is the greatest of life’s pleasures. Learning is a like a sweet watermelon slice on a hot summers day at a swimming hole with your girlfriend. It is the cheese on a warm summer hamburger, or the full moon’s reflection off a lake at night. Accordingly, Duke has been the summer of my life, instigating all sorts of water-melon growing, warm sunny skies, sweet romance, and swimming holes. Indeed, Duke has been an unbelievable place to learn and it has sparked enormous amounts of curiosity for me.
In my first semester, I took a math class called linear algebra. My professor was a young woman from Germany that spoke with a British accent because she learned English while studying in Great Britain. Perplexed as I was by her linguistic quirks, she was an amazing professor. Her lectures were captivating. She would present a concept, give some illuminating intuition, and then prove a theorem that shook my bones. Often I had to restrain myself from jumping out of my chair and saying, “NO WAY! THAT IS AWEEESSSOOMMME!!” Over the course of the semester, I realized that I love math way more than I even thought that I could.
I wish to also reflect on some of my experiences outside of the classroom. However, before I do so, I must digress slightly. I don’t particularly want to refer to my experiences as “in” or “out” of the classroom. Often, people seem to differentiate between these two environments because the classroom is usually located inside some brick walls. However, in my experience at Duke, I have felt like the walls of the classrooms have been more like translucent membranes. Indeed the door to the classroom at Duke is more like a screen door. If the content of the classroom is like water, then the doors aren’t stopping it from flowing out. Indeed, the doors aren’t stopping that which is outside the classroom from coming in either. There is a conversation that never stops between the classroom and the rest of life at duke.
A quintessential example of the interplay between studies and life at Duke happens in my dorm room. Every night, my roommate and I break open a Tupperware full of carrots, dip them in hummus, and talk about what we learned that day. He usually tells me about the research that he is doing on the controversy surrounding a non-profit while I share with him about curvatures of surfaces, the calculus of variations, or markov-chains. There is something beautiful about nights in our room, lying in bed, talking about everything from mathematics to religion. It is confirmation to me that learning never has to stop.
Duke has had the effect of making me more aware of how ridiculous it is that I am alive. Indeed it seems that this is one of the goals of learning. The more aware I become of my own fragility, the more I realize the need to seize the day. Everyday is another day that the sun hasn’t exploded. Lucky as we are to be alive, let’s make the most of it, pursuing that which is beautiful and true. Carpe Diem.
The images in this post came from: