Last Week was busy. My birthday & Organizing UNRH19 at Wooster.

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I am struggling to structure this blog post. I turned 22 last week. I also helped organize UNRH19 at Wooster! It was an amazing conference! I’ll write more about that in a later post. When I started writing this post, this is what I was actually thinking about:

I am working on a research project for my professor in the Physics department under Dr. Manz. It is called the BZ-History project- BZ short of Belousov Zhabotinsky reaction. It is this reaction whose scope is difficult to explain. It has been such a rewarding experience.

My professor has been working on this all of his life. He met Anatol Zhabotinsky- “the Z in the BZ reaction” early on in his career at a poster session and it touched his life. Decades later, he is still working on this project. A Digital Humanities project.

This research project has had me thinking. This man, Anatol Zhabotinsky died in 2008. This man I will never meet, and yet, my job has been for a year, and for 3 years more, will be to work on this scientific empirical love letter to him. How he touched my professor’s life. How he shaped the field of Physics.

Death is such a waste. I will never meet him and neither will you. How many of us die this way? We all do. To conquer death will be our biggest undertaking as a species. Which one of us would not give anything to see someone we loved taken from us, again?

I was reading through my research advisor’s LaTeX file for his upcoming book, which I view and describe as a love letter to 2 scientists who have shaped his life. He met one of them, and he describes the encounter in this admiring, star struck manor. I found it so easy to empathize with his experience. Thinking about that meeting, and how other contributors to the book later described Anatol, I felt a keen sense of loss at all the scientific knowledge, the human value we have lost as a consequence of death.

When each of us dies, a library burns down. This is the most tragic thing I can imagine. And we grow up to accept death as a necessary and unavoidable aspect of our existence. On my 22nd birthday, was I afraid of death then? Do I feel afraid to die then? I do. Without a doubt, I am afraid, but I am more afraid of losing other people, than I am of my own death.

Elizabeth Bishop writes:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

She says this, and yet, I do not want to lose anymore than I do. I do not want to master the art of losing. As a species, our existence is marked by so much loss. The past is lost to us. Everything in it is gone. Memory. Youth. Our loved ones. We must lose as little as possible and cherish the things we have. Although, in her next passage she says,

Accept the fluster of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.


I seem to embody this last bit.