On & Off Campus Blog

Watching the world spin: an argument for why we should all take more time
Watching the world spin: an argument for why we should all take more time
Tessa Haining ‘19

Whenever people ask me what I like to do, I tell them I like to play the violin, to row, and to watch the world spin. That last one usually elicits a small chuckle or two – nice in the moment, but I'm not joking. I genuinely enjoy watching the world spin ever so slowly on its axis, and I think you should try it too.

I guess I should clarify exactly what I mean. Watching the world spin? Is that even possible? Is that at all like watching paint dry? Well, let me illustrate this with an example: in the second chapter of Camus's L'étranger, main character Meursault spends an entire Sunday afternoon on his balcony with a newspaper, watching families strolling, boys playing soccer, moviegoers ambling, waiters sweeping their floors, children laughing, stray cats chasing mice, and, eventually, streetlights illuminating the avenue below.

Existentialism aside, I found myself enamored of Meursault's Sunday spectating when I read this passage in tenth grade French. I resolved to try it for myself, even if I didn't have a charmingly French balcony on which to perch. It was one of those September days that couldn't quite figure out whether it wanted to be late summer or early fall; the sun shone on the stray leaves that flurried intermittently with puffs of breeze. I arrived at a café near Longwood, sat down on a stool facing the window, pulled out a book, read for an hour, and decided I couldn't stay seated any longer.

So I meandered up Brookline Avenue, casting a wide gaze over the motley assortment of music students, junior doctors, and Target-goers on the sidewalk beside me. Occasionally a detail would pop out, like the high-pitched laugh of a young woman clinging to her boyfriend's hand or the fatty fumes of the Fenway Park hot dog stand, and I'd follow it for a second, then watch as it faded into the fabric of the background.

By the time I'd reached Boston Common, I realized that I was no longer seeing people; I was seeing stories. Every person I saw, from overexcited ten-year-old girls clutching pink Starbucks concoctions to the college student shamelessly wearing Ray-Bans and a Hawaiian shirt, had a story, had a reason they were there at that exact moment. And as I watched, heard, and smelled the whole façade, I saw the intersection of so many unique stories–mine included–all combining to create our very own, albeit ephemeral, world.

So when I say I like to watch the world spin, I mean that I do everything I can to carve out ten minutes, an hour, two hours a week to observe and take in the world of which I'm part. Over the last few years, I've watched the world spin from many different vantage points–Paris, Madrid, Montreal, Tel Aviv, New York City–and each time I've realized something new about who humans are and what we all share, making me a better person for it.

At BB&N, it's not uncommon for us to get trapped in our own stories, whether that be college applications, an honors bio lab, sports practice, or even our Instagram bios. We never purposefully make the time to watch the world spin; to remind us that we are part of something far greater than ourselves. No matter how stressful your world may get–and trust me, I understand the stress completely–if you just take that time to watch the world spin, to reconcile your own world with those around you, you'll find yourself breathing and smiling again.