Dora Guo

You’re missing the point.

Have you ever heard that before? Gotten that before? It’s never something you want to hear. People telling you that your thought process is invalid is a bit of a jab to the ego, and it smarts a little.

But consider this: sometimes it is the greatest of minds that miss the point. Sometimes, you stumble upon something else entirely, something far more fascinating and important than the point could ever be.

There’s also the possibility that you are objectively wrong, but that did not occur to me as I stood in the pit of zero cell service known as the Bass Library basement. Instead, I leaned over a standup desk, poring over an essay by Luther, watching the sinews in my hand as I wrote notes with an absent mind.

How strange.

My skin bobbed up and down like some flexible, intricately woven tide, and I imagined everything that was going on beneath it.

Muscle tissue and ligaments and blood, all powered by synaptic impulses and action potentials sent from my motor cortex—all of this happening because I wanted it to, all of these words appearing on my page because I wanted them to show up there. Isn’t that strange? That I can write? That people can understand the contents of my thoughts based on some familiar shapes I’ve traced with a mechanical pencil that someone else has designed?

For a human being, a composite of countless cells and organic tissue, it seems foreign, advanced.

At this point, everything started getting weird.

I’ve always had a habit of looking at things and realizing just how unnatural they are. Car rides through a city leave me visualizing blueprints and designs of every building and item that I see, and I’ve never stopped seeing the world as something manufactured—something tried and tested again and again. Our reality is composed of the top 1% of ideas, the ones that made it.

Those shoes you’re wearing? Those were put through who knows how many durability tests and design cycles. That computer you’re using? That is the product of decades of innovation. Nearly everything that you touch has its own long history—had to earn its place.

The world is kind of like Yale that way.

The world is also like Yale in that both make no goddamn sense at times.

There was something particularly unsettling about watching the natural movements of my hand in an environment filled with artificial things. I paused and stared down at my shoes, my belt, my many winter layers, my watch. I eyed my papers and books with skepticism, and when I at last lifted my head to take in the people and computers around me, I had never felt so out of place.

For a brief moment, I felt like the only person on campus wondering why we even do this. Not in a “Yale makes me question all that I’ve ever done, and I’m seriously having to reconsider both my identity and my passions” kind of way. I save that for Tuesdays. This was an “I am in a room full of other human beings covered in synthetic materials that they purchased with synthetic materials, and we’re all sitting on synthetic materials reading synthetic materials” kind of way. It’s a different kind of disorienting, like someone took all knowledge of human history and swirled it around in your head like it was a mound of noodles.

There was a link missing there. Something wasn’t making sense, and for a good five minutes, I considered just walking out.

Many people have had similar dissociative moments—ones in which nothing seems real or valid. Ones in which you can just leave. I’m still of the belief that those are the clearest moments we have, but they’re so fleeting. Just as you get it in your head that you are at last free, capable of going anywhere, doing anything, reality settles down on you again, this time a little heavier than before.

It felt like I was splitting open a crack in the universe as I turned back to my reading, like I was the center of the biggest dramatic irony of all time. I couldn’t see them, but I was sure that a mob of spectators was watching me somewhere, falling to the ground and slapping their foreheads with resounding little pops—a chorus in dismay at my inability to see the point.

Nights like that only happen so often, and a large part of me is thankful for that infrequency. Can you imagine what would happen if I had clarity every time I walked into that library? Past the turnstiles, down the stairs, to my usual desk? Into the cave?

Shit. I’d end up running off. To somewhere—something—real.

There’s a reason I willingly take off my glasses at night.

I’d never be able to sleep if I didn’t.

Alina Martel | alina.martel@yale.edu

ALINA MARTEL
Alina Martel is a junior in Trumbull College. Contact her at alina.martel@yale.edu.