Have you ever been walking down the narrow path between Adelbert Hall and the Michelson-Morley fountain walkway and gotten stuck behind that one student moving perilously slow? Or how about while heading west on Euclid Avenue approaching the intersection at Adelbert Road right as a wave of students have crossed and are making their way toward Thwing, leaving only a lane big enough for one person between the mob and the Severance Hall retaining wall? Well, I’m one of those sluggish students. I walk through campus pretty slowly, taking in the colors of campus before they get obscured by the white blanket of Cleveland snow. In fact, you could say I saunter along the footpaths that adorn our campus.
Published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862, Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” speaks about the art of sauntering. He says, “We are but faint-hearted crusaders, nowadays, who undertake no persevering, never-ending enterprises…We should go forth on the shortest walk in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return,— prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdoms.”
So why bring this up? Because community starts at the bottom— that is, with us students. If you are one of those students that walks through campus like you’re competing in a speed-walking race, slipping further into an abyss of unawareness with every step you take and note of music blaring through your headphones, turn off your iPod, pick your head up, look around and stop numbing yourself to the world through which you are walking. Pay attention to the immeasurable number of things going on and dare to interact with them. Dare to let Thoreau’s words free you from the fetters of self and help create a better campus community.
Officer Mark Chavis, the humbly jovial crossing guard for whom everyone I personally know has great affinity for, greets us every morning with a smile, high five and a “How we doing, baby,” or “My brother, my brother” or “Hey sweetheart.”
He truly cares about every single individual that crosses the Euclid-Adelbert intersection. I’ve even seen him push a wheelchair-bound student across Euclid, yell at drivers blocking crosswalks and attempt to cheer up those having bad days. His positive attitude about Case Western Reserve University and supportive demeanor embody the sentiment of community that has been hibernating in CWRU’s doldrums for too long.
When my uncle passed away some years ago, I cleaned out his attic. The smell exclusive to places one hasn’t entered in years, cobwebs running from floor to ceiling and an amalgamation of belongings accumulated over the years all seemed overwhelming at first. Then I found his early-1950s Kyowa microscope and standard issue Army rucksack from his time as a medic in Korea. Suddenly, I was happy to be in that desecrated attic and found my motivation to clean it.
Community at CWRU is like an obscure item found in an uncle’s attic; one moment you’re ignorant to its existence, the next you find it and it transforms your perspective.
Do I have to personally know you to smile at you and say hello in passing? Must it be assumed that I have ulterior motives for commenting on your pretty dress? The gross reality at CWRU is that I’ve smiled at people on campus after making eye contact only to receive a lowered head and a scowl. I’ve told a girl I liked the way she did her hair that day and was told, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”
As if the assumption that I was trying to pick her up wasn’t enough, the word “boyfriend” was said with a ridiculous upward inflection as if she was asking a question or unsure of her conceited assertion.
The environment which I have just described is not ideal for learning, but it is what CWRU can be.
I’m tired of pretentiousness prevailing over common courtesy on campus, and I don’t think kindness is too much to ask for.
I’m tired of following someone into a building like Nord only to have the door slam back in my face. If you think you’re too good to hold that door, crack a smile or say please and thank you, let me assure you that you are delusional and need to re-evaluate your priorities.
Canadian theologian Jean Vanier has said, “Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other.” As long as we remain in the fetters of senselessness and apathy we will continue to ignore each other. As long as we leave the attic of CWRU untouched and locked, the notion of community will remain an artifact covered in cobwebs and will be reduced to mere illusion.
Jacob Martin is an English and political science double major. He thinks the Guilford porch should have more than two chairs.