Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau Walk Into a Bar

And then they had drinks and celebrated the fact that finals were over. (Seriously, I tried coming up with a better punchline, but I couldn’t make it funny, so I thought I’d opt for absurd and asinine instead.)

But honestly, finals are over, and believe it or not, I almost didn’t know what to do when I got out of class. I lingered, albeit unintentionally at first, with some classmates and we discussed our exam, but then I was on my own–and I really had no idea what to do with myself.

So I did what anyone else would do: I did nothing.

That nothing was intentional, though: Having just written an essay on what Rousseau would tell us to do to live a happy life, I felt obligated to start making some of those changes–and that meant enjoying “the sweet sentiment of existence,” or just taking a walk in the park. As I walked across said park (the Court of North Carolina at N.C. State), it occurred to me that this was not the first time I had been here.

Ignore the fact I walk through the court every Tuesday and Thursday between linear algebra and political theory and have all semester.

What I meant was that I had been here–in the Court of Carolina (which is bad copy editing form, but is colloquial, so I must use both equally)–more than just this semester. In fact, the first time I had ever been on campus, with some of my all-time greatest friends, we had stepped out of the 1911 building (which is, in fact, named the 1911 building) and peered out over the sprawling court. After we had stood in stunned silence long enough, while we were walking down the steps on our way to SAS (my building, the math building), I remarked: This is my place.

While I stood there today, I realized, this really is my place–it is the bridge between mathematics and political science and creative writing. On one side of the court I have my major and on the other side I have both of my minors. Next semester, I’ll have to cross the court twice, maybe even three times, every day of class. It’s a nice walk, hardly even three minutes meandering, but the symbolic gravity of it only struck me today: It’s the ligament between the bones of my body. It is what connects these polar opposites of science and humanities.

So I sat down, stretched, and laid on the grass and waited there. I tried to focus on the moment: I shut my eyes and went through all of the sounds I was hearing and then all of the sensations inside my body. It was relaxing. Reinvigorating. And then I walked to lunch.

Normally I study while I eat. (I do not, however, take my notebook to the urinal to study there. I don’t know why that one guy did it today, and I’m almost certain he didn’t wash his hands.) Except now I didn’t have to study–or even more aptly, I didn’t have anything left to study.

(As an aside, to explain why I didn’t post yesterday, I had spent the entire day studying practically, and what post I did write came out sounding like a stream-of-consciousness megalomaniac’s ramblings, and I didn’t feel I could publish that with good taste. Although I admit, it was amusing to proofread.)

So without anything to study, I opened my Kindle. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read anything for the pure enjoyment of it–and that, I decided, was going to be what I’d do. So after looking through my titles, I settled upon finally, at long last, after many false starts, reading the first story in my complete anthology of H.P. Lovecraft, his short story “The Tomb.” And it was chilling. Mind-blowing. Awesome.

So then I needed something else to read, since I knew I was not of sound mind to read a second story so quickly. I want to relax, not go insane, after all. I figured I’d finish reading my sample of a book on habits, and let me tell you, it’s really sad reading about people who are perfectly healthy but can’t remember the last thirty years of their lives. It’s pitiful. It made me tear up inside. But learning about how habits form is still pretty fascinating.

To sum it up, habits form in a part of the brain that doesn’t rely on active thinking. When we perform habits, we’re acting without thought–literally. It’s how we start walking and end up at our classroom without remembering getting there. It’s how we never forget to put toothpaste on our toothbrush even though we’re not paying attention to it. It’s even how we remember to breathe.

Because, seriously, if you think about it, you’ll suffocate.

I was really, really enjoying it–and then I got to the end of the sample and could no longer enjoy it. But maybe I’ll treat myself to another Kindle book or two to read over break after I get my last paycheck. We’ll see.

In any case, this new sense of freedom, this sudden lack of stress, is almost numbing. I’m going to read–for fun, not because my grades depend on it. I’m going to enjoy nature. I’m going to play video games and do the dishes. Well, I do need to the dishes, but I guess that isn’t on the same level as playing video games, is it?

And tonight, I’m going to light the Chanukah candles and enjoy their light with no compulsion to do anything other than watch them (and hold my hands up to keep the wind from blowing them out. Again).

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