I don’t want to be a billiard ball.

After a doctor’s appointment at the University of Chicago yesterday, I spent about 2 hours walking around with my camera, where I used to work in medical genetics.  It was a gorgeously warm and sunny day and I really enjoyed the stroll around the beautiful campus.

One of the places I visited was this sculpture next to one of the dormatories.

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I did NOT know yesterday was Enrico Fermi’s birthday. Interestingly, I had a conversation with someone from the Regenstein library at the UC about Fermi. She took my picture while I was sitting on this sculpture that sits right on top of the location where the first sustained nuclear reaction took place (under Stagg Field). She told me a story that the day of the successful and history-making event, people came to Mrs. Fermi’s home bearing congratulatory deserts (chocolates and the like) to give to her along with hearty congratulations. It’s reported that Mrs. Fermi asked, “Congratulations for what?” Apparently, it was SO secret, that even Fermi’s wife knew nothing of her husband’s research.

Is that a true story? I’m not sure…

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But it took a while to get this picture.  I sat on this sculpture for 15 minutes, just resting in the shade and watching people walk by.  Most of them walked by without even noticing me. It took me that long to find just one person to take a picture of me. Everyone seemed so busy going somewhere, usually with their noses glued to their iPhones and not entirely friendly.   I was sitting there, hoping someone would stop and talk to me.  Finally, after I almost gave up, I got the shot I was hoping for.

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A nice lady walked by and took a look at me while I was sitting in the sculpture. She was the only person who actually acknowledged my presence. She smiled at me and waved. I waved back.

She said where I was sitting looked comfortable and shady. I agreed. I asked her to take a picture of me and she did. I took one of her, too.

It turns out she’s a librarian at the Regenstein library behind the sculpture I was sitting on.  She was the one to share with me a lovely conversation about the history of Fermi’s accomplishment.  When she told me she was a librarian, it didn’t surprise me one bit.  Librarians are smart like that and love to share their knowledge with others.

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It interesting to me the things you can learn from another when you aren’t just following the “billiard ball model of existence”.

What’s that, you ask?  In Roger Houseden’s book Soul and Sensuality, he writes:

“We do not exist separately from our bodies.  Neither do we exist in our brain cells alone, as if the rest of our physical being were a mere appendage to carry us about and gratify our desires.  Our body is a dimension of who we are, an integral part of our humanity.  To contract our sense of identity into one end of it, the head, is to follow the compartmentalized view of reality that is the legacy of the eighteenth century Enlightenment.  That legacy has given us the billiard ball model of existence, in which people and objects are separate packages which bounce off each other without any relational existence.  In this view, the body is simply another object.  “We” are the light of reason and we live in the splendid isolation of the cortex.  The more we retreat like this into a corner of ourselves, the more we live and experience life like a clenched fist.”

I daresay the more we are connected to our electronic gadgets and not fully interacting with the world around us, the more we live and experience life like a clenched fist, too.  I love meeting new people, discovering things I didn’t know before, and having moments of connection with others.  It’s one of the best things I enjoy in life and I hope I never miss out on the opportunity to meet interesting new people.


About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
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6 Responses to I don’t want to be a billiard ball.

  1. What a fabulous librarian lady! Like you my dear sister! ❤ Leon

  2. Some synchronicity here. My teenage daughter just asked me to rate the University of Chicago but I only knew about its economics department.

    You sitting in the sculpture while people ignored you and went their separate ways, like billiard balls, is a great analogy. I identify with this billiard ball mode of existence because I am often that billiard ball, rushing to go somewhere or do something, and so closing myself off from what might otherwise flow to me in the process. As an introvert, and for most of my life a short-sighted one at that, retreating into my head seems to have become a deeply ingrained habit although it often feels like a social and/or biological necessity.

    • Casey says:


      Hello, there. I’ve been quite remiss in responding to my lovely blogging friends lately. I’ve really no excuse, just that I’ve been running around a lot lately, spending time exploring and taking photographs of different places and seeing some really good theater and having a lot more substitute teaching opportunities, and trying to do a few things around the house.

      As far as introversion goes, I can relate. I consider myself kind of an extraverted introvert. A paradox, I know. In certain settings, with my favorite kind of people, I am a storyteller, and love being the center of attention. And I’m a fantastic teacher. But, teaching really drains me, too. Some days are harder than others. And for my breaks, I usually spend them quietly in my room rather than go to the noisy teachers lounge and listen to the inane gossip.

      But in other settings, with people who are intimidating, I am more introverted, preferring to sit on the sidelines and observe. Take family celebrations, for instance. I can take about 2-2.5 hours of a family gathering before I have to find a quiet room to take refuge and go read quietly or take a nap. I would often dislike going to the in-laws, because I could never escape to a quiet place without being seen as rude.

      I wonder how you and I would get along if I were to meet you in real life. I have a tendency to draw people out of their comfort zones, and usually find lots of beautiful things about people in the process.

      As far as the University of Chicago goes? Well, it’s a beautiful campus. My grandfather, and uncle and brother attended. I was accepted, too, long ago, but my mother wouldn’t let me live on campus, and I just couldn’t see how I’d be able to handle the rigors of the curriculum while commuting from home – a home where my parents were constantly fighting. I elected not to attend, out of fear I’d struggle too much and be exhausted all the time. My brother, of course, was allowed to stay on campus (which was rather unfair, but I didn’t hold it against my brother). But 10 years later, I ended up working for them. I worked with prominent pediatricians, neurologists and researchers in the field of medical genetics.

      I love, love, love the atmosphere there. But, I’m an outsider to the school itself (I worked for the University, but my genetics lab was located in the hospital) . I’ve attended some work parties in the school, though and attended some other functions. My family also had donated money to cardiology research and to their celiac disease program. I attended a few functions there related to the celiac program – the fundraisers and one of the preceptorship dinners on campus. The buildings are gorgeous, inside and out.

      For me, there’s just a lot of family and personal involvement there. I’m partial to the campus and if I could have attended the U of C and stayed on campus, I would have, most definitely.

      Good luck to your daughter on choosing a university to attend. What an exciting time for her.


    • Casey says:

      It occurred to me that I have not yet posted the other photographs I had taken. I thought I had, but I only posted to my facebook page. Oops!

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