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.
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…
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.
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.
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.