It’s a week before April vacation and all I want to do is go somewhere warm.
Considering the recent weather we’ve been having in Massachusetts, it shouldn’t be surprising that I want to be somewhere else. I’ve had deserts on the brain for a while now, and while I don’t think I’d be able to make a trip to, say, Arizona, next week, I keep feeling a pull westward and maybe during the time between graduation and starting my summer job, I’ll figure out a way to get there. There are enormous things out there that I want to experience with my own eyes.
I mean, I’m planning on climbing more mountains this way during the summer as it stands—but I feel like it’s not really the same. Everything here is going to be unbearably damp, and I’m kind of done with that unless, of course, I’m going to the beach.
(I keep thinking about the one day at the beginning of March where it was over 70 degrees out and mournfully wishing it had stayed that way.)
We’re on “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman right now. I remember my own experience in astronomy lectures while reading it, which I didn’t bring up to the previous class but I probably will to the next two. Here’s the thing: I do actually like the more mathematical parts of astronomy, because, for one thing, I’m good at it (when you give me an equation and tell me how to plug in numbers, I’ll be fine), but for another, it’s humbling to see all those zeroes. I’m a very analytical person and I like problem solving. While I can understand that the universe isn’t necessarily something you can take apart and put back together, it’s still something I want to try to figure out.
At the same time, we’ve got Whitman’s speaker, who is so incredibly miserable being told all of these numbers that he leaves the lecture and goes to see the stars himself. I don’t think you can really appreciate nature without experiencing it yourself. I can look at pictures of the Grand Canyon all I want, but until I go there, am I really going to understand the sense of awe that it inspires in people? You can read figures and equations about the size of the universe, likewise, but until you go out to a dark field and stare up at maybe a meteor shower and see just how many stars there are in the sky (and know that you’re only seeing the ones closest or with the highest candles), you’re not going to really understand the universe.
Which I think is the point Whitman’s trying to make. There are just some things in the world that we can’t explain through numbers or words—you’ve got to go out and feel it yourself. Just shut up and look at the stars and be amazed that you inhabit the same space as they do. Maybe this notion extends to people, too, and relationships—we can’t really quantify emotions, just like we can’t quantify the amazement we might have staring at the void for any extended period of time.
Tying it all together: Whitman’s reminding me that I’ve got to take time out and actually go do things and live them myself rather than relying on someone else to tell me the truth about them. If I want to be warm, I might as well dive headfirst into the sun.