Anyone with the slightest imagination or interest in the world dreams of being a fly on some wall. Perhaps they dream of alighting on the white oak walls of the U.S.S. Constitution during her maiden voyage. Or maybe their imagination takes them to the hand painted Chinese wallpaper of Kilkenny Castle, occupied by the Confederates during the Irish Revolution. Or perhaps, they prefer to perch on the marble veneer of the Curia Julia and witness the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Such were my thoughts during the stretch break of a block session of Modern European Literature. I stretched left. Aaaaaah. The U.S.S. Constitution was sinking the Royal Navy’s HMS Guerriere. I stretched right. Oooooh. The Confederates feared the Republicans were approaching. I stretched up. Eeeeeeh. Et tu, Brute? I bent over, touched my toes, and surveyed the wall behind me, upside-down. It was neither white oak, nor covered in hand-painted Chinese wallpaper, nor marble veneer. Though I’m no expert in building construction, I’d say it was sheet rock painted gray. Then my own silliness hit me. I dreamed myself to the Atlantic, to Ireland, and to Rome. I alighted with sailors, soldiers, and senators. I landed on walls of every ornate design. But I never considered how fortunate I was to be where I was, among the people I was among, surrounded by the gray sheet-rock I was surrounded by.
Amidst my daydreaming, I had forgotten Ridgeview and my classmates. Sure, I had been sitting in class discussing Nietzsche with them, but I had not considered the walls that surrounded me to be the stuff of dreams. I was wrong. Any fly on the walls of room 301 that day or any day was a very lucky fly. And I, a student, in a chair, able to speak, was and am still luckier.
Perhaps I and others dream of hovering by while Robert E. Lee plots his strategy for the Battle of Gettysburg, while Digory puts on a yellow ring, or while Watson and Crick discover the shape of DNA. But as travelers of the battlefield, the study, and the laboratory, we need a place, or hopefully places, where others can broaden our horizons by showing us the worlds that await exploration. We need a place that fosters our interest by dunking us in literature, steeping us in history, and actively transporting science into us. But, we also need a place that lets us journey, not as hermits, but as companions. Here I have both. I am in class, taking a brief break before further exploring the Nietzschean ideal of being able to embrace continually reliving your life unaltered. I have been brought here by a more experienced traveler and accompanied by my entire class, both of whom are full of queries and insights that I would have missed had I been alone. I am reading, listening to other’s thoughts and questions, and voicing my own. I am within walls well worth being a fly on.
The stretch break concluded, I retook my seat –my black plastic seat, surrounded by gray sheet rock walls– grateful to be able to hear my classmates’ and teacher’s thoughts on Nietzsche’s “eternal return” and add thoughts of my own. For though I will still fly to distant lands, bygone times, and rich fictions, I will not forget where I am now, where I can actually participate, and where my future flights are fostered.