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Thoughts

June 6, 2013 at 2:37 am

These past few weeks have been a blur of events, scattered thoughts, clouded sleepiness, strange behavior, and mixed feelings that swirl without settling. Hence no blog post in a while, but here is one made of scattered thoughts and good intentions for you.

Some days I feel like this (the indigestion-ridden LDC Dining Hall frozen yogurt machine):

LDC Fro-Yo 

And other days I feel like this (one of my floormates with a condom on a bear-shaped honey thing):

Nora Spatz 

And other days I don't have a good picture for what I feel like.

Perception is a weird phenomenon. Perception = reality? I’ve decided that until I have reason to believe I’m insane (and maybe not even then), I’ll believe that things are the way I perceive them to be (the old argument--I feel like I have free will, therefore I do have free will). I most likely don’t have a future as a philosophy major--I value hard evidence and certainty and the scientific process too much. I spend half my time in philosophy class rereading the assigned material, trying to make sense of the arguments. During our last class session, our prof asked us how, if at all, taking PHIL 118: Freedom, Determinism, and Responsibility had changed us. Most people talked about how their views on free will changed, but I just felt like I’ve thought more about how there’s no scientific process for thinking about philosophical questions--you can take evidence from anything in your experiences or imaginings, and there are far too many plausible counterarguments to any argument you could posit. It takes a really flexible mind to propose philosophical theories that take all evidence into account.

Recently in Biology class we learned that humans are K-selected species that evolved to be good competitors in stable, unchanging environments close to their carrying capacities, and therefore keep up a lower metabolic rate/have less reproductive events over a longer period of time, etc. I feel though that from an individual perspective, the same biological principle applies but for us as r-selected species, just because although scientifically, with all available evidence in front of us, we have to believe that we are K-selected, our self-centered, subjective perceptions of the world around us makes it seem like we live in an environment that would make us r-selected--ever-changing, fast-paced, and unstable. It seems irrelevant to the larger picture, but maybe it would help explain why we feel like we have to YOLO all the time, keep up a constant stream of snapchat selfies, and/or maximize the pleasure/activity in every moment of life (in ways like listening to music while you brush your teeth instead of listening to the ambient noise of Burton).

Analytical chemistry is possibly the least romantic/imaginative class I’ve taken at Carleton, but there’s a kind of beauty in that straightforwardness, too--in working through the problems and (eventually) getting to an answer that makes perfect, uncomplicated sense. I always liked analyzing literature in high school, which might be why I had so much trouble reading my Biology textbook this term--I seem to read too much into the words, forgetting that the writers probably didn’t choose their words as carefully as Shakespeare did, and had trouble grasping the bigger picture. Fortunately, lectures set me straight for the most part.

I’ll be taking Organic Chemistry I, Intro to Educational Studies, and Cross-Cultural Psychology as well as Contact Improvisation and Social Dance next term. Cross-Cultural Psychology deals with the question of whether psychological principles apply universally or are culture-specific. I’m hoping to go on Carleton’s Cross-Cultural Psychology in Prague program in the fall term of my junior year, and I think that the question of how distinctly human structures of a sort of post-evolutionary complexity affects humans scientifically is fascinating. My favorite hangout seems to be the life science-humanity bridge. I’m interested in Ed studies because of how my education has changed me, I’m excited to learn about the chemistry of the compounds that compose living things, I’m taking Social Dance so I can enjoy Carleton’s dances without being self-conscious, and I want to take Contact Improv because it’s about physical communication, taking advantage of our skeletal structure to do cool partner lifts, and translating thought into movement, which has proven to be a valuable mind-resetter this term.

I’m leaving this academic year with a much better understanding of how best to study for evaluations in different disciplines. I’ve learned how to pinpoint the sources of my confusion, how to focus better, how to organize and present my thoughts orally (although this part needs much more work), and that it’s okay to ask for help (if only in the interest of saving time, since after all, I could eventually answer all of my class-related questions on my own/with the Internet). Maybe most importantly, I’ve learned to believe that things will eventually be okay when they aren’t immediately.

I like Chemistry, partly because it’s so cool and sometimes because you can get away with doing well on tests through a sort of muscle memory from doing fun problem sets. In Biology, you have to be able to explain cause and effect chains/phenomena to other people. It’s something to do with our wiring as social animals that the surest way to make sure you understand and will remember something is to tell it to something else. And when we tell something to someone else, we take what the philosophers of freedom Philip Pettit and Michael Smith we call the ‘conversational stance’--we’re operating under the assumption that the person with which we converse is worth talking to (or is capable of entering into a satisfactory interpersonal relationship with us)--another manifestation of how a belief in free agency and thought is built into us. We’ve evolved to make ourselves believe in happy delusions--why else would we be so subject to things like self-serving bias (re: social psychology)?

Biking to Northfield Hospital for summer volunteer orientation today, I was struck by the stark beauty of the landscape’s lack of nothing but backlit, silver-lined gray clouds and yet-lifeless farmland. Something about it made me realize that I’m okay with my insecurities and content with the way things are falling into place for me right now, as well as okay with the way things may or may not go according to my plans in the future. I think this kind of peace of mind comes with the combination of the plain quietude of Northfield farmlands as well as the way Carleton has taught me to work hard but enjoy what I do instead of worrying about what I didn’t have time to do or how I can scratch up a few points to turn a B into an A.

The thesis here, if you didn’t see it in the jumpy narrative, is that I love Carleton, I’ve had an amazing first year full of ups and downs but mainly growth (I typed manly growth at first,  I’m glad I caught that), and I’m really looking forward to what my next year will hold.

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