Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gray Through Day Two

Today we had our second day of class. Although I'd been awake early and early to class yesterday, I set about seven alarms for this morning just in case I overslept, and put my ipod across the room so that I'd have to get up to turn it off. As a further precaution, I turned my phone's volume up and put it close to my head, so that if I slept through my alarms I would hear the anxious calls from my Freedom and Justice cohort. However, I was up in plenty of time to put on a previously selected outfit, throw my electronics in my backpack, and head to an unhurried breakfast of eggs, potatoes, coffee, and a banana. My cohort was occupied with re-reading the material while we ate, since we wanted to be able to discuss it well and weren't sure that there wouldn't be a pop quiz. We left for class by 8:20 or so and were early again. 

vertically shifting blackboards
Today's lecture by Professor Kramnick was about alternating views of justice and love in the New and Old Testaments: the major theme that justice is obedience to God contrasted with the minor theme that justice is restorative, achieved through loving your enemy and turning the other cheek. In today's Catholic teachings, we were told, this has been reversed, so that the major theme today is loving your enemy rather than showing obedience to God. Then, in discussion, we analyzed The Sermon on the Mount (blessed are the meek, etc.) to further explore those notions. Although at times the discussion was hard to follow, I was absorbed throughout and rather upset at not having more opportunities to participate. However, there is such a wealth of opinions and perspectives from the other fifteen high schoolers that my own feel boring and insignificant in comparison. 

changing skies

After discussion, I left the building for lunch with the rest of the Freedom and Justice cohort. As we stepped outside we were astounded to find it was raining. Sue was prepared with her pink umbrella, but I'd left mine in my room for the day. Furthermore, I was wearing shorts and canvas shoes, so by the time we came inside my toes were soaked. Still, I was able to enjoy a coffee, caesar salad, and brownie while the rest of my group had Indian food, which they described as mediocre.

After lunch we returned to the lecture hall, rather than the discussion classroom, in order to hear our guest speaker. Richard Stumbar is a partner in an Ithaca law firm who graduated law school from Cornell in 1974. Since our guest speakers are meant to show us their lives as "practicioners" of freedom, justice, and equality in the real world, he told us about his work on two important discrimination cases. The first concerned a settlement for the women's coaches, especially the gymnastics coach, at Cornell in the late seventies and early eighties who had been subjected to unequal pay and unsafe working conditions. The second concerned the recent legal fight for marriage equality in New York State. Mr. Stumbar told his stories compellingly, and when conservative members of the class challenged his views on the basis of the preservation of traditional marriage and families, his reply was both logical and passionate. I had never pictured a lawyer in the role of a social justice advocate, so today was a pleasant surprise. I know now that law school may be of interest to me - that the life of a lawyer doesn't have to be boring or slimy. 

After we'd been dismissed and I'd thanked Mr. Stumbar for speaking to us, the Freedom and Justice cohort walked up to the various residence halls. I spent the time before dinner trying not to fall asleep and starting this post. 

Unexpected cake is always nice.
Today is Carla's birthday, so Mr. Chan-Law met us at dinner, bringing the pre-arranged ice cream cake. We also had a singing card, which I'd picked out at Target beforehand. So while I finished my pasta, Carla struggled to cut through thick layers of ice cream with a dull knife. Eventually Mr. Chan-Law took over and we each got a huge slice of cake (although the term cake is misleading, since the dessert in question consisted mostly of vanilla and chocolate ice cream surrounded by frosting). However, there were two large if slightly melted slices left, so after we'd eaten Carla offered them to some of our Freedom and Justice classmates who were seated nearby. 

North Balch after dinner
stormy skies from my window

After dinner, Jun and I went to see Katelyn and Kevin's rooms, which seemed cleaner than ours and certainly had more storage space. However, I think that the lounge rooms of our building are prettier by far. A bit after eight tonight it thunder started booming periodically, and it rained again. I love this wild weather, especially because it means I have no desire to run around outside. Tonight, Jun and I are working in a very quiet lounge on the second floor of North Balch Hall. I have about fifty pages of re-reading to do, but I hope to be in bed by eleven. I need the sleep; I haven't gotten more than six hours a night since we departed from El Cerrito last Monday. For tomorrow, and indeed for the next two and a half weeks, I need to be alert in order to process the complexities of the course material. Of course, I've been trying to get more sleep for years. But at Cornell, I have both autonomy and willpower. 

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