Reasons
July 02, 2015


In a beach-house my family used to visit on Waiheke Island, I remember throwing myself against waves in the ocean as they are crashing. I like the pressure. I think I have decided it meant agency. There is little scarier to me than being carried away by a momentum, instead of throwing myself against it. I am not someone who wants to ride on particular expectations, but instead I like to be the meeting point of many. On Waiheke Island, I would keep throwing myself into waves for hours, until I was tired and ready to go home.

There is something of a need to move in me. A standard reflection I recite about myself recalls the tripartite identity I performed in high school. One part of me played Water Polo, another sang in the choir and on stage, and the third liked to read, write and practise Latin. A self composed in three threads is suggestively religious, but unflatteringly the only idols I can claim to have worshipped are individualism and its self-regarding companions. I tell myself sometimes that I think about myself too much, and that usually results in thinking about whether I might make myself into something else, whether I should, whether I will will I? Now that I am no longer in high school there are more than three threads in the fabric of myself that I am weaving for the world, and so this is where we're at currently: writing an essay about me, in an attempt to explain and unravel the economy of desires trusts loves likes mistrusts flaws failures I call my self.

Taking a year away from university study is an experimental gesture. For what reasons do I read? For whom do I develop software? Why am I working? I feel as though Princeton has already decided its answers for these questions, and I don't know that my answers are the same. I think they are probably similar, but I haven't had the informed time or space to be anywhere close to sure. One of my good friends told me that I am still very young, and I agree with her. While I am young, my experiments are creative and curious. When I am old, they will be wayward and disreputable1.

I am a ghost-body of ideas. The people with whom I work would maybe prefer eidolon, a Greek word that Wiktionary tells me means "An image or representation of an idea... an apparition of some actual or imaginary entity, or some aspect of reality."2 I take notes for books, thoughts and everything else on an application called Growly Notes, which allows the tapping of anywhere to start writing in a text box, drag arrows across the screen, color code and other useful things. It is possible to move text boxes once created, which immerses my thought in a slightly more fluid culture of representation than if I was taking notes on a page. It is the tool by which I organize and disorganize ideas, a forum for their reinterpretation.

Institutional education submerges in a viscous liquid that only allows certain types of thought gestures. Though it is undoubtedly important to learn how to swim when one is in one's youth, it's not particularly useful if you don't know how to mobilize in any other way. Swimming can only take us so far. I'm not all about distance and finish lines. When I go running I do not like to know how much further I have to go. Two days ago I lost my direction in the Villa Doria Pamphili. I had to keep going, because I don't have the cash in my back pocket to call a cab, or the faith to stop and walk. I came to this park with a purpose, and I (probably) won't stop until I know what it is.

Princeton's liberal arts degree in Computer Science is broad, and I am able to take many courses that wouldn't be available to me in a British-based system of tertiary education3. Princeton's requirements cannot keep my course of study broad enough, because, as I have admitted, I am still not completely sure what I am studying for. A year to study on my own time, kept tidy by my own mind, will at least give perspective to the sort of study I will return to at Princeton. In Rome I intend to read authors whose names I have heard but do not know, to learn Italian in an attempt to diversify and complexify the syntax of my thought, to develop a portfolio of software and programs I have not yet heard of, and to write music. For more about this, see syllabus.

This is sort of where I am at. Rome gives time to give Princeton perspective. There also don't have to be teleologies, even if I wrote an essay fictionalizing some. Hopefully reading feels a little bit like throwing yourself into waves. We will keep doing it until we are tired and ready to go home.


  1. This is youth as it features in Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and also in Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We want it we have it we lose it we want it.

  2. Wiktionary, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/eidolon , accessed 02/07/2015 at 4:33pm.

  3. As we have in New Zealand.'

author Lachlan Kermode

Written by Lachlan Kermode who lives and works in Princeton. You should check out his Resume, GitHub, or Twitter.