17 February 2008

Small Saturday Thoughts

As of today there are only 11 more days until I'm in a position to demand some news about the Cambridge Fellowship I applied for.  I was originally told there'd be news around the end of January, but of course bureaucracy moves more slowly than promises promise, so now the new date is February 27.  Since the fellowship is for the academic year 2008/09, I think it's reasonable to want to know by the end of February.  Also, it would give me something to look forward to, and a point around which to organize my life.

The picture above is of the St. John's College library.  I won't be going to St. John's if I get the fellowship, but I liked the picture because it makes the library look long, and empty, and most of all quiet, quiet in that funny way where the silence makes you imagine what the place would be like if it were noisy:  a silence so silent that it produces its opposite in your mind, and that production makes you feel the silence more deeply.  In Canto V of Don Juan Byron says, "Perhaps there's nothing.../...saddens more by night as well as day,/Than an enormous room without a soul/To break the lifeless splendour of the whole. // [I]n a mighty hall or gallery, both in/More modern buildings and those built of yore,/A kind of death comes o'er us all alone,/ Seeing what's meant for many with but one."  But my experience is just the opposite.  I find it enormously pleasurable to stand in places that are often full but are empty at the time I'm standing in them, or to stand in huge places that could hold many but are currently empty and silent.  There's something about the lack of crowd where I know there could be (or know there was) a crowd that makes the silence, and the peace, fuller, and makes me experience it more fully.  I don't know what that shows, except perhaps that Byron truly didn't like being solitary, and I truly do - solitariness being made more emphatically solitary when it occurs in somewhere designed to be crowded.  Um (as Byron would say).

No comments: