Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Conforming and Non-Conforming Non-Conformist
It is now the Tuesday after Labor Day. One way or another, all our visitors have come into the Center for Karen to orient them and show them to their offices. The final three arrived today: Bert Leuridan, Samuel Schindler and Peter Vickers. We have our house full and more.
What sort of group this will be, we are all wondering. Will they interact and form a true community of friends and scholars? The signs last week had been promising. The few visitors already in the Center had been probing puzzles in the philosophy of scientific explanation, covering our lounge white-board with the obscure hieroglyphs, instantly transparent to another of their number. Later in the day, Richard Samuels has passed by this decorated whiteboard. He reported his shock at seeing written up exactly the hieroglyph he'd left a few days before on his office door.
Today, Tuesday, I passed the Center lounge around 11:30am. There was Heather and P.D. eating an early lunch with Peter Vickers and Sam Schindler chatting with them.
It was an opportune moment to continue populating our Wall of Fame. I brought our old Polaroid camera in and asked who was ready. That is an awkward moment, since there is something universally threatening about the business end of a camera lens. P. D. and Peter are ready. They have their photos taken and write their names in the white frame at the bottom.
Others are not ready. They need to reflect a little. I try to reassure them that tomorrow they will be no less beautiful; and, alas, likely no more beautiful. I pose as an exhibit and reflect sadly this is my personal experience.
More Fellows join in posing while I snap away. They sit or stand, reflexively waving their developing photos, waiting for the image to appear and then writing their names. All this makes some noise that spreads down the hall. Soon more fellows have joined in.
Then something curiously revealing happens. Each Fellow pins their own photo on the Wall of Fame. The photos from each year have been aligned perfectly in a straight line. P. D. pins his photo up, slightly out of line.
Then other Fellows follow and the line become wilder and wilder.
Finally the last few are added in a neat row. This, I announced, was a diagnostic test. We have a bunch of non-conformists! Not so, called back P. D., who had started it all. There just wasn't enough space to line up his photo. "We have mischievous non-conformists," I continued to insist, "We have the ones who insist that it is not their fault that they break the rules."
This triggered an academic analysis of this layout as a diagnostic tool that became increasingly far-fetched. As we huddled round our photographic handiwork, Heather assured me that the placement of her photo was designed to conform to the emerging sine curve. Hmm. A conforming non-conformist.
John D. Norton