Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Love Places

Earlier this semester I missed the bus back home and decided to hop a train.  It only got me home an hour earlier than the next bus, and cost about twice as much, but I needed to feel in charge of my life so I walked two miles in a light drizzle to the Amtrak station and boarded for Chicago.

Union Station is a wonderful place.  The parallel feelings of being totally surrounded by humanity and also being totally anonymous are all wrapped up in one magnificent underground complex of ticket booths, expensive coffee shops, and great roaring beasts of trains.  I had half an hour to kill before boarding the Metra line from Chicago to Aurora, so I wandered into the Great Hall.

This is mostly underground.

The Great Hall at Union Station is a magnificent place.  One must either ignore it or be overwhelmed by it, because the towering ceiling admits no other response.  Like all the old beautiful architecture in Chicago, it does not require anything of you.  Look up, delight in the beauty of the place, and be humbled.  But what I love about great places goes beyond their artistic value: they give the sense of being beyond my ability to destroy.  It doesn't matter whether my homework is late or my hair is unkempt, whether I feel terrible or terrific, beautiful places only require that I exist in them to change my mood for the better.

In the modern wing at the Art Institute of Chicago there is (or was, several years ago) a room, drywalled on every surface and unpainted, containing one giant mass of fluorescent lamps.  One aspect to the exhibit is that, as people wander through, it breaks down.  The floor is for some obscure reason covered by sheets of drywall that are punched through and worn away in places, and wears further as people walk through.

The Institute's description of this piece says so little in so many words that it rivals the work's own bland obscurity.
This exhibit, as for as I can tell, is not art.  It is the very antithesis to art.  It says "I am totally at your mercy to destroy, halfway imbalanced and teetering on the least interesting edge of insanity".  Some might respond that this feeling of unease is exactly what the art was supposed to inspire, and that it is working to that end.  But unease is cheap, and those who have nothing important to say should have the good sense not to speak.  Art tries to get a better angle at beauty, and is often hard to understand, but this modern foolishness merely tries to be hard to understand and misses beauty altogether.

Back to Union Station.  I had just enough time to drool over the Great Hall, grab a rather awful cappuccino at Corner Bakery, and wonder why Chicago makes me so happy before catching the 2:20 to Aurora.  I stayed for barely long enough to remember why I missed living in that wonderful place called home.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Getting Further Away

About a week ago I started listening to Elliott Smith, and immediately fell head-over-heels in love with his music. One of my favorite of his lyrics goes

"I've got a long way to go, getting further away"

And that pretty much sums up how I feel right now.

I have a physics test tomorrow. I haven't really payed attention to the class in about a month, but I'll probably still get at least a 85 on the test, probably higher. After that it's more physics homework, math homework, geography, computer science, physics again, blah, blah, blah. All I want is a cup of strong coffee, a chocolate bar, and the time to read something worthwhile.

Speaking of reading, I've started Richard Dawkins' book "The Greatest Show on Earth", which is his defense of evolution and attack on creationism. I agree with him wholeheartedly on evolution, disagree with him wholeheartedly on atheism, and generally get the sense that he thinks he is much cleverer than he actually is. Then again, I suffer from the same fault so perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to criticize him for that.

I'm getting annoyed at science. No, that's not true. I love science; I'm a physics major for pity's sake. I'm annoyed at the idolization of science, like it is some indestructible tank, bravely waging war on religion, or stupidity, or creationism, or whatever happens to be convenient. Here's the thing: science doesn't give a flying damn about anything, at all, ever. Science can only be beautiful if we acknowledge that there is such a thing as beauty, which can be got at by such a thing as science. But stop pretending science is a philosophy -- or at least acknowledge that if it is, it is the most depressingly boring, deterministic, and meaningless philosophy that it is possible to invent. It may take a scientist to find the smallpox vaccine, but it takes a religion to find that people are worth being vaccinated.

Enough with ranting. I've been on that train of thought too long and I had to get it out of my system.

So anyhow, this has been "Deep Thoughts" with Nate Scheidler. Tune in next time. Meanwhile I'm off to confession, and then start again trying to love my crooked neighbors with all my crooked heart.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Saturday night was a first for me: I went to a club. Now, I know what you're all thinking: "Nate, you seem like such a hip, club-type person! How have you not gone to clubs before?". Well, first of all, I'm not such a hip-o (hippo?) after all, and second, your use of the word "club-type" exposes you as a companion social pariah.

The club was Clybesdoles, or Clydoray, or something, and I went with a few of my cool friends and (luckily) another guy who shares my aversion to exactly everything about clubs. In case you didn't know, a club is a series of dimly lit rooms, filled with different proportions of drinking and loud obnoxious music. There is also a thing called "dancing", which means hopping about in a confined space while your ears bleed. The high point of the night, for me, was when I was half-dared to talk to a random girl, who informed me that her voice had gone out and promptly left. I hope I didn't scare her away, but I think I did. I was just trying to find someone to talk to, but apparently that isn't a thing at clubs.

I think I have a pretty good idea of how to have a good time. I read, I talk to and play games with my friends, I drink copious amounts of tea. But I don't like clubs. That is what I learned last Saturday night. Call me homeschooled.