Monday, June 14, 2010

the spider slowly lowered itself on a single strand of silk towards the unexpected head of the professor. we sat in eager anticipation. all staring. wondering. what will happen next.

university was often boring. brain meltingly pointless and dull.
but there were chance lapses where it all made sense. where the boringness of it all climaxed in a infrequent moments of pure absurd clarity. i remember one of these moments better then the dozens of chapters on cirrus cloud formation or the spanish armada.

at first going to university meant so much to me. i thought I would be birthed into a world of intellectual higher learning and passionate idealism. but four years of drunken frat boys and classes premised on low expectations took its toll. i started to retreat into an apathetic hole of just getting by. by my fourth year i had signed up for classes with the end in sight. learning had ceased to interest me as the flood of being done started to hit.

i liked thames hall because the philosophy department shared the building with the music department. for a few minutes everyday as i walked to class i would hear the musical stumblings of future joshua bells(great article). it was one of the only places on campus where i had positive association. my daily walk through thames was a moment of solace as I was able to ignore the outside world of ugg and sweatpant wearing business students incessantly chattering about the night before
yet despite the surroundings...there was one class..i did. not. look. forward to.
every thursday in my fourth year I had a class in thames from 9-12 with some teacher ive lost the name for.for those three hours i would sit and listen as he compared the dense continental philosophies of gottleib leibniz and immanual kant. for a year. three hours a week. with get this....5 other people.
it was as sleep inducing as anything ive ever experienced in my life and a beautiful cumulative expression of what university had begun to mean to me. head nodd..stay awake darren. stay awaake. hey i have an idea. buy some skittles on the break. yea that will work.
it never worked.
that thursday things were to be different. we all sat down shortly after 9. a tall slender well dressed teacher and five other students who to be completely honest i remember little of. there was phil the president of the campus crusade for christ, the short girl who msn chatted most of the class, the bearded hippy who hadnt said a word in 6 months, and a couple of others.... mirages in my memory.
right away the bespeckled man started into leibniz's monads without any regard for niceties. "the preestablished harmony of the universe is represented through the monads. god does not make mistakes. each thing has a metaphysical form in the essence of a monad. a human being is a monad. thats where free will poses a problem to leibniz"
it wasnt completely uninteresting stuff looking back on it. yet it was the drone of his voice. and a year of suffering through the thursdays with students who cared more about that nights party at jim bobs that made it uninteresting and lack meaning. all i could think about was the fact that it was almost over.
but this thursday was different. 9:15. with all 5 of us staring at him with glossed over eyes..something caught the corner of mine. from the top of the 14 foot ancient ceilings sat a large black spider. initially i was the only person who saw it but as the minutes dragged by all of my fellow classmates slowly awoke to the threat. the msn chatting girl for once directed her interest elsewhere, phils eyes grew large and attentive, it was beautiful. straight above the profs head the spider sat. and then over the next 2 hours it slowly spun its web lowering bit by bit towards the professors head on that one string. we all sat captivated. classmates that had spent the year staring without a thought in their mind were now on the edge of their seats. what plan does this spider have? how will the teacher react if he sees it? the questions were endless. every second was an eternity as the spider slowly dropped closer to the unexpectant teachers head. no one said anything to him out of respect for the spiders goal.
"kant was a something something categorical imperative something something i am deathly afraid of spiders bla blah" is all I heard. is all any of us heard. fellow classmates were together in unrivaled concentration. we were wide eyed and sharing something meaningful. i felt attached to them for the first time in four years.
the prof...thinking that somehow he had struck a chord with us sped up his delivery slightly.

closer the spider spun. until it was within a couple of feet of his head. I gripped the table. the girl across the table from me spittled at the mouth. bearded hippy dropped his water bottle. o mercy me. 11:45. i felt as if the world had stopped. it was now only spider and prof. then in a moment of utter perfection the spider made his final revolt.
onto the shoulder of the kant spewing teacher. and what happened next. will forever be burned into my memory.
noticing that there was a spider on his shoulder the teacher picked him up and exclaimed "oh hello there" and then promptly put him down on the floor in one motion and continued speaking. as if it happened to him all the time. not knowing the drama that had unfolded over the past two and a half hours. the highs. the lows.
all five of us exhaled at the same time. and then set back into our sleepy poses.

as I left that class i tried to figure out what had just happened. i had for one moment given all my attention towards that teacher and his relationship with the spider. i couldnt remember the last time i watched and concentrated with such intensity.that spider was trying to tell us something. perhaps that we should care about what we spend our time on. or that school has turned into a machine. or that leibniz needed to clarify his view of the eternal. what i did know. is that i felt invigorated. something to tell people. a shared moment with a group that i felt so detached from for so long.

looking back at university. it still is one of the clearest moments in my mind. that spiders bungee. and now. as i read over kant and leibniz again four years since...i cringe at the lost potentialities of university..yet relish in the the absurdity of it all and am happy to have heard that forgotten professor say "oh hello there" to a huge black spider.

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