Many students at Brown, regardless of their present concentration, grew up reading fabulous literature — classics such as Frog and Toad, In the Night Kitchen, and Shel Silverstein’s various nightmare visions of poetry.
When we grew older, we learned of the glories of science fiction, that magical realm where galactic empires rose and fell, robots battled from dusk til dawn, and farm boys from desert planets made out with their sisters. Truly, those were the boldest visions of the imagination.
Occupying one of the loftiest positions in the genre was, is, and forever shall be Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card’s classic novel of youth-turned-soldier in the service of humanity. Without giving too much away, at one point in the novel a group of child-commanders are controlling a computer simulation of a space battle. Their ships are equipped with an amazing weapon that, when detonated, forms an ever-expanding sphere of energy that basically turns whatever matter is around it into space dust. Every time the wave of destruction hits a new thing, it grows more powerful until it finally eats up all it can and then dissipates.
The aliens in the simulation start out ignorant of the weapon’s power. The children fire it into the tightly-packed ships and the cosmic death sphere expands rapidly, eating them all up. Easy victory. In later computer battles, though, the enemy’s AI gradually realizes that if the ships spread themselves out and avoid bunching up, the explosion of one won’t allow the wave of destruction to reach the whole fleet. They become harder to eradicate and better equipped for revenge.
All of which is to say: don’t take the carrel right next to someone in the library.
Seriously. You have the entirety of known space — in this case, the Rock or SciLi — to choose a place to write a paper or read a book or watch South Park, yet you choose the seat right next to me? If I walked up to you and yanked your earbuds out of your head holes, would you really be able to make a court-ready case that the one space in the entire library that has the correct qi necessary to stimulate productivity is the seat six feet away from my desk? Don’t even try.
There are some who say this is an overreaction. “Humans are social animals!” they say. “It’s just for a few hours!” they shout. With pitchforks in hand they shriek, “Intolerant louse!” Cry in vain, sweetheart. The library is place of solitude, a region that helps you get in tune with your mental faculties and hone your academic awareness to the finest possible point. The last thing I need is to be reading Poe contentedly and look up to find a dude who, with at least 30 carrels to choose from, has decided to sit down and start breathing heavily.
Even worse, there are times when your willfully ignorant choice of a seat leads directly to some self-righteous indignation on your part. If I’m neck deep in a Blue Room sandwich on the second floor of the Rock, I’m going to choose a seat that’s as far away as possible from the nearest occupied carrel, since the rustling of paper and the pleased sort of grunting that’s a natural side effect of French rolls might interfere with another student’s right to uninterrupted study time. But amigo, if you waste your free will by plopping yourself down next to me, you can bet that I’m going to go at that sandwich so hard you’ll think Kobayashi transferred here from Coney Island. If your head appears around the edge of the divider and your mouth opens to ask me to pipe down, you best be prepared for an extra-strength death glare and the longest, calmest sip of kombucha you’ve ever seen. Flame on, you non-contributing zero.
I mean, is it this difficult to grasp? Personal space, man. Respect, just say no, and other D.A.R.E.-appropriated phrases. It’s not that hard.
It’s best to look at this practice in terms of your entire existence. Collapsing in a heap right next to another human being is perfectly acceptable only in a very small percentage of cases. Death, for instance (although we wish you’d give us more warning). Or when you spot people at the Ratty you know but are in a big hurry so you slam down your things down and breathlessly gasp “HEY GUYS.” Or at soccer games, if you’re on the pitch (Ed.- The field. We live in America) and just scored (which, come to think of it, is itself a very small percentage of soccer cases).
Aaaand yeah. That’s the list.
Those three examples comprise a nigh-on inconsequential slice of the conglomeration of events that modern philosophers and freshman seminars colloquially refer to as “life.” Which means in 99.999% of the situations you find yourself in during your daily routine — or an even higher percentage if you really dig 4+ significant figures — sidling right up next to a human is morally criminal.
Still don’t agree?
Okay, let’s try a new angle, one which might appeal to the more political minded folks at this school. You’re the president of the United States. The top d0g. The POTUS with the most-est. The weight of the world rests on your shoulders, and as a result there’s a rather large group of people whose sole duty is to ensure you exist in a state of non-death (i.e., not Texas) for as long as possible. Part of the way these brave souls accomplish this is by trying to make sure you and all the people who help you do your thang aren’t constantly huddled in a single group out in the open, like some weird political analog of the Cleveland Browns. Powwowing all together like this puts you in imminent danger of being blown up or shot or lazered or whatever else people like John Malkovich have in store for y’all. We’ve gone back to discussing the president now, not the Browns, fyi.
Get the picture? If everyone important and powerful in the country was always together in one room, there would be nothing stopping some crazy mountain man with a Bowie knife and a three-day hangover from causing enough mayhem to turn the line of succession rulebook into mandatory D.C. bedtime reading. “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket,” I believe is the phrase. If the advice is good enough for egg-gatherers, it’s good enough for the rest of humanity. Musical supergroups kind of break this rule, but whatever. The good die young.
Now let’s reel in this terrifying vision and return to the key lesson: excessive proximity yields death and anarchic chaos. Or maybe it’s just overwhelming annoyance? I think the last one? Yeah. Probably.
FlogDailyHerald gives all y’all 10 flogs, in the hope that a double dose will beat some shame into you.