Jay De Man

the archaeology of calvin

Merino socks drying in front of the window. B. F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Scattered issues of Calvin’s Dialogue. An aeropress, a double-walled waterbottle. A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle. A partially eaten sleeve of saltines, one cup of Rwandan coffee. Almond butter. One bobblehead of John Calvin himself. 

Calvin's very own nature preserve, enjoyed during an in-between moment. 

Calvin's very own nature preserve, enjoyed during an in-between moment. 

If you look out the window, people are playing guerilla golf throughout campus. A mess of hammocks grow ripe in the sun, and a tribe of longboarders passes swiftly. Elsewhere, people set up a market of leisure on Commons Lawn. People hold dance parties in their rooms. 

There’s a massive archaeology to the life of the college student. Often, time in the dorm is transient at best, something spent between classes or in the late evening hard on the heels of homework. Here and there, scattered objects (a textbook, a printout, mechanical pencils, sweatshirts, Keurigs, boxes of tea) betray what I believe to be a highly nomadic culture. 

Rowster's New American Coffee. Very high on the list of great study spots. 

Rowster's New American Coffee. Very high on the list of great study spots. 

We go, here and there, from topic to topic, class to class, movie to activity to chapel to meeting to work to sport to rest, leaving a stupendous trail of lived-with objects. The most-importants are toted around in packs: the resting place of our rooms existing as the launchpad for we normally-orbiting rockets. In my experience, the rooms are repositories, but our backpacks are essential and always with us. In the nomadic theme, it is funny to consider each of us pitching some tent of intention in each classroom, there briefly to take in what is important, before flitting off perhaps to the library, or to a lab, or the gym, there temporarily to exist and take in before piloting toward the next. Some may dally, or affectionately linger, but each one leaves behind just enough to indicate thereness, and so we see instead the myriad trails indicating the intricate weave of life on campus. 

I have developed an affection for the various places people go to work and study and the objects they take with them. Little pockets of civilization spring up here and there as time, freedom, or necessity allow, only to peacefully go as the moment requires. It seems very native and seasonal, like a miniature of the world. 

Especially over this week’s two-day advising break, Calvin’s various nomadic cultures came to life, and it was very exciting to see.