My Williams Memories: Five Senses Then, Five Insights a Quarter Century Later

The Five Senses: sight, sound, taste, smell, & feel

The Five Insights: knowledge, realization, appreciation, consciousness, & experience

The sight then of snow falling on frozen metal fan blades slowly rotating in the winter wind on David Hammon’s public art installation, “Rock Fan” and wondering what the controversy surrounding it was all about, really.

The knowledge now that such acts of artistic freedom are rare and bound to generate controversy when they first appear but will soon all but be forgotten except by those who were initially moved by the act deep inside of themselves, even if they lacked the words to express it at the time

The sound then of Joshua Redman’s tenor saxophone echoing through Chapin Hall as he played selections from his then new album, Mood Swing, and wondering why there were still so many empty seats behind me. 

The realization now that jazz music, like any music, is a highly subjective thing and says nothing about one’s musical taste or ability to appreciate individual virtuosity. True musicians will play just as ardently for a loyal audience of one as for a crowd of thousands or online following of millions.

The taste then of sweat, sometimes mixed with blood, following an intense hike, fast-paced run, tough gym workout, hard-hitting squash match, or solo ski trip into the surrounding woods and natural spaces that made Williams College such a satisfying place to explore as a student. 

The appreciation now, after many long years of even more ambitious outdoor and indoor athletic pursuits, that testing one’s limits is not all that the world has to offer. Sometimes, slow and steady is a far better choice that fast and furious. There are other mountains and wilderness landscapes inhabiting the inner recesses of the human mind that don’t need to be conquered but to be loved. 

The smell then of latex gloves mixed with industrial strength dishwashing detergent and uneaten food as I finished yet another shift at the Greylock dining hall, wondering why those 12 hours of minimum wage work each week were so vital to my learning at Williams. 

The evolving consciousness now that all work, whether it be of the hands or the head, has inherent value because it connects us to the pulse of the planet and to the lost lives of our human ancestors who knew neither of places of learning like Williams nor of modern age wonders of scientific ingenuity like artificial latex. Wealth beyond all reasonable measure can sometimes be had by a single lucky toss of the dice or all-in risk taking strategy, while decades of dedication to a craft or calling may yield little in the way of material gain. We work because that is what makes us human, not because it provides us with the status and significance that we still so often seek.

The feel then of a bottle of Ravenswood old vine Zinfandel shipped directly in a sturdy looking box that I gingerly lifted from a case shipment send to the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures from Sonoma County, California, to be part of a faculty only end of spring semester celebration, as I wondered what a glass of wine like that might taste like and how if would feel to be a faculty member invited to take part in such a gathering. 

The experience now with many hundreds bottles of Californian and other fine wine and uncounted dozens of faculty celebrations and informal gatherings where wine and other alcoholic beverages of pedigree were served, having learned that what matters isn’t the label on the outside or academic title worn by the person but the contents inside the bottles and minds that count. Or did, at any rate. I hope things change. Soon. Or we all will be lost.

Published by Sempervirens117

I am a content writer and founder of sempervirens117.com, an eco consultancy based in Woodside, California that assists Silicon Valley companies in developing greener products and promoting sustainable Earth solutions on social media. I offer team training sessions year-round in Northern California.

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