Integral Musings: A Student Journal

A journal of creativity by Saint Mary's Integral students

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“Colors” by Elise Yockelson, ’21

You’ve​ ​let​ ​me​ ​in,
I’ve​ ​seen​ ​you​ ​in​ ​good​ ​times​ ​and​ ​your​ ​bad​ ​times;
You’ve​ ​seen​ ​me​ ​in​ ​mine.
But​ ​please​ ​I’d​ ​color​ ​you​ ​in​ ​if​ ​you’d​ ​let​ ​me;
To​ ​see​ ​past​ ​all​ ​the​ ​blurred​ ​lines​ ​and​ ​grey​ ​skies.
Take​ ​my​ ​hand​ ​and​ ​we​ ​can​ ​mix​ ​ourselves​ ​and​ ​find​ ​peace​ ​in​ ​our​ ​bodies​ ​and​ ​minds. You’ve​ ​touched​ ​my​ ​soul
And​ ​a​ ​piece​ ​of​ ​you​ ​fits​ ​right​ ​into​ ​mine.
I​ ​memorized​ ​the​ ​way​ ​your​ ​eyes​ ​look​ ​into​ ​mine;
Straight​ ​through​ ​me,​ ​as​ ​if​ ​I​ ​were​ ​glass.
Yet​ ​you​ ​push​ ​me​ ​away​ ​as​ ​I​ ​try​ ​to​ ​find​ ​out​ ​what​ ​blackens​ ​you​ ​in​ ​this​ ​sphere​ ​we​ ​live​ ​in; Evading​ ​my​ ​concerns​ ​and​ ​questions,
You​ ​fill​ ​my​ ​head​ ​with​ ​general​ ​lines.
How​ ​I​ ​wish​ ​we​ ​can​ ​stop​ ​time,​ ​and​ ​have​ ​this​ ​moment.
For​ ​I’d​ ​do​ ​anything​ ​to​ ​bring​ ​back​ ​the​ ​colors​ ​you​ ​see​ ​in​ ​my​ ​eyes.

“Heartstrings” by Elise Yockelson, ’21

With each chord you play

Your fingers soft, will pull away.

The sweet melodic tunes I make,

Hum in tune with the breaths you take.

You strum the deepest parts of my soul, And all those glances you stole,

Made electricity course down through me,

Your precise control aroused me,

Euphonious sound flowed,

Filling the empty spaces

Of my heartstrings.


Integral in Rome: One Week Away

On February 9, 2018, six Integral sophomores (and a student from the College of New Jersey) will begin their semester-long adventure in Rome, Italy.  Traditionally, Integral students have had little opportunity to travel; January Term travel is possible, but since the discontinuation of the Oxford program, semester study abroad has not been possible.  This year, however, several students have the opportunity to study abroad in Rome through the Rome Institute of Liberal Arts (RILA), founded by Integral tutor, Gabriel Pihas.

RILA has been as summer program for the past ten years, but this is the first time a semester program is occurring.  Tutor Pihas believes that a semester-long program  will “…give students more time to get a feel for the language, the neighborhoods, and more time to make friends with the Italians”, which is something Somnath Ganapa, a junior at the College of New Jersey is looking forward to, as well.  “I want to befriend some Italians and I hope they don’t dismiss me because of my American-ness or weak Italian skills”, says Ganapa.

When I spoke to several of the Saint Mary’s students, they shared a similar sentiment.   Lydia Borrego is particularly excited to meet new people and experience a different way of life, even if it is only for three months.  Lydia will be leaving the country for the first time this February and is equally excited and nervous.  Carli Mac Mahon says she has fewer concerns and is incredibly excited to meet native Italian speakers and read Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italy.  Nick Pappas wants to “consume the Vatican Museums”, so it is nice that our apartments are 4.8 miles from the 54 of them.

We will be living in apartments that many students from an Italian business school live in.  Even though we’ll be roommates with other Saint Mary’s students, we will share a floor and kitchen with Italian students, which I believe to be something positive.  It’s nice to have the comfort and familiarity of Saint Mary’s friends, but meeting new people and speaking a new language and experiencing new things seem to be a study abroad requirement.  If you’re not going to fully immerse yourself in Italian culture, what’s the point? Sure, you’ll be living in Rome, but you won’t be experiencing Rome.

All seven of us are incredibly excited to embark on this journey and start our (three month) Roman life.  One week to go!

Hello from Rome!

We have been in Rome almost two weeks! The first couple of days were fun, yet difficult.  Getting settled in a new country and getting a handle on your surroundings requires a lot of time, energy, and walking! After we took care of “practical” matters (bus passes, grocery shopping, etc.) we began to settle in and explore the neighborhood.

We are living in the Nomentana neighborhood of Rome, about 20 minutes from the heart of the city.  This neighborhood is filled with restaurants, stores, and churches and serves as a sanctuary when we’re tired of the big and bustling city.  We are living in a residence with many other Italian college students, all of whom are incredibly nice and welcoming. In fact, some of us are going to Pompei with them this weekend!

Classes are going well here, too.  Our classroom is located on the same floor as our rooms, so our commute is relatively quick.  Tutor Pihas is teaching our math and art/architecture class, while Susan Dawson Vasquez is our language tutor, and Mr. and Mrs. Strader are leading our seminars.  Class is definitely different since there are only seven people, but it seems like a smaller cohort allows for a more intimate seminar experience.  We are just finishing Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and then we’re onto Dante!

Getting to know Rome and Italian culture is incredibly interesting and rewarding, and we’re all looking forward to becoming more familiar with the city and language.

An Update from Rome: Week 3

Yes! It’s true! It snowed in Rome last week! This was the first snowfall Rome has seen since 2012 and we all had so much fun experiencing the snow.  Nick Pappas had never seen or been in snow before, so he was especially excited about the sudden change in weather.  Since Rome is not equipped for such snowfall, buses and other forms of public transportation were canceled for the day, so one of our tutors was unable to make it to class.  Since class was canceled, we all went outside and frolicked around in the snow for a little bit.

Last weekend, some of us took a day trip to Pompeii to marvel at the ruins, while others spent the weekend in Assisi looking at beautiful churches.  Those who went to Assisi met up with another SMC student who is studying at the Angelicum in Rome; the Pompeii group was accompanied by Camilla, an Italian business student living in the residence with us. Getting to both Pompeii and Assisi is fairly easy.  A three hour bus ride through Naples will take you straight to Pompeii and a three hour train ride up through Umbria will lead you to Assisi. It was amazing to see an entire city preserved by volcanic ash and walk along the original streets that weaved through the city.

Nick’s first time in the snow!

We have been to many, many museums and churches and seen some of the most beautiful art and architecture.  The iconic Roman landmarks are even more mesmerizing in person.; the Pantheon is spectacular and the Trevi fountain is absolutely humongous.  Most recently, we visited Santa Costanza, a church in the Nomentana area of Rome.  We toured their catacombs and saw the sarcophagus of Saint Agnes, a 12 or 13 year old martyr.  Since the Romans were heavily influenced by the Greeks, knowing a little bit of Greek came in handy when reading the engravings on the various sarcophagi.

Time is flying by so quickly! It’s hard to believe we’ve been here almost one month. Many family members and friends are visiting in March and April, so we are all looking forward to seeing them and showing them around.

A view of the Forum from the Musei Capitolini

Next week we’re visiting the Vatican Museums!

At the Halfway Point

We are halfway through the RILA semester! Time has flown by so quickly, especially since we are kept busy with classes and then excursions on the weekends.  Spring break was last week, though, so many people traveled on their own or in small groups. Several people went to Paris, while a couple others spent a few days in Barcelona.  The Paris cohort visited the Louvre, Notre Dame, and other classic Parisian sights, while the people in Barcelona went to the Sagrada Familia, the Pablo Picasso Museum, and walked around the streets, which are filled with monuments and buildings designed by Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi.

Nick, Allison, Laine, and Megan in Paris
Lydia, Somntah, and a new friend, Annie, in Barcelona

Just after spring break, a few of us took an optional trip to Siena, a charming medieval town in northern Italy.  We arrived on Friday afternoon, while Tutor Pihas arrived Saturday morning. On Friday afternoon, we walked around the Piazza del Campo, where we learned that twice a summer, Siena hosts a palio.  The Sienese palio is a bareback horse race, in which ten riders, representing ten of the seventeen contrade (neighborhoods), compete for the honor of leaving their contrada flag up all year. There are very few rules governing the palio, and as a result, several injuries and deaths happen yearly.

Once Tutor Pihas arrived, we went into the Palazzo Pubblico, the main building in Piazza del Campo. The Palazzo Pubblico used to function as a type of city hall, and even though the building is a landmark and museum now, the politically charged frescoes are still visible.  Perhaps the most famous pieces of art in the Palazzo Pubblico are Albergo Lorenzetti’s frescoes depicting the consequences of good and bad government. His frescoes incorporated the Sienese politics of the 1300s, as well as references to Roman gods and goddesses.

Piazza del Campo in Siena
The view (after a lengthy walk with Tutor Pihas)

We are upholding Integral’s Don Rag tradition while in Rome, as we completed ours just a few days ago.  One of our tutors had never been in a Don Rag before, but she said the experience was interesting, but preferable to letter grades.

As we are coming to the end of our time in Europe, some people are trying to plan last minute weekend trips! There is a strong desire to venture south in Italy, but many also want to go north past the English Channel and into London or other parts of the U.K.  A few people are staying in Europe and traveling after the program, so they’re finalizing their plans, too.

The weather is getting better (it only rains five out of the seven days now!), the city is more familiar, and Rome feels like home to pretty much everyone.  It’s safe to say that things are going well!

Nearing the end of the voyage

In just under two weeks, the semester RILA program will have completed its maiden voyage. When we left on February 9th, all of us were nervous and not sure what to expect. We were all certainly very excited, but the  anxiety was definitely pervasive. Now, just about two weeks from returning to SMC, our feelings have flipped and we are all incredibly excited to return, but that happiness is tainted by a feeling of early onset nostalgia and sadness. Everyone is looking forward to seeing their family, friends and pets, but leaving Rome behind is going to be bittersweet. Returning to the familiarity of Moraga will be enjoyable but there was something fun and exhilarating about living in a city without really knowing the language or how to get around.

Some highlights from the past few weeks include:

  1. We had lunch and seminar at our seminar tutors’ house! Our seminar is led by Brigid and Scott Strader, friends of Tutor Zepeda. They recently had a son and invited us all over to their house for lunch and seminar on Richard III.
  2. The weather has been fantastic! It has consistently been in the high 70s, which is amazing because studying outside in Rome is quite nice.
  3. Last Tuesday Tutor Pihas took us all to Palazzo Barberini, a 17th century castle-turned museum. In that museum we saw two Caravaggio paintings, the Narcissus, and Judith Slaying Holofernes. Earlier that same week, we saw the Conversion of Saint Paul and the Calling of Saint Matthew, both by Caravaggio, as well.

Since we have about a week and a half left, everyone is scrambling around to get last minute trinkets for themselves and family and friends at home.  We are also also trying to see the last few things that we have not seen yet. Some people want to visit the “Mouth of Truth” while others are interested in seeing the Vatican Museums once more.  There are a few people who are planning on remaining in Europe to travel once the RILA program ends. Carli and Megan are planning on starting their travels in Barcelona, while Somnath is going to head up to London.  The rest of us are heading home and starting jobs or internships!

Today is our last excursion, and we are heading to the Galleria Borghese!

Ci Vediamo Dopo!


Musings of an Anxious Integral Alumnus by Ryan Villegas, ’17

Publish or Perish, Musings of an Anxious Integral Alumnus

Matriculation into Grad School has roused some emotions in me. Like, it really got me twisted up. I am, beyond all things, so pumped to dive into the world of research and academia. However, I’d be remiss to not write about my lurking anxiety over that expression used so readily by many who were or are still in the Academy – that is, “​publish or perish​”. To add to the mix, mentors and friends constantly remind me that success in Academia is NOT solely based on a meritocracy. Hypothetically, I could write some of the dopest papers for coursework assignment, maybe even write an awesome dissertation, teach some classes, earn some fellowships, speak at a conference, and do it all at an Ivy League institution. I could earn the respect and admiration of my peers and colleagues while doing so. But, so I’m told, none of that will secure me a position in Academia unless I publish some papers in a reputable journal related to my field. Even if I do meet the right people, publish enough papers in the right journals, get an interview and then a job as a professor (adjunct, associate, or tenure-track), I would still need to continue churning out publications until I receive tenure. Just about all of the awesomeness that comes in the total-package of Ryan VillegasTM means nothing in the academic market if my CV is void of publications. There are thousands of other PhD holders who have the same, if not better, qualifications as me. What’s more is that many PhD holders will apply to new positions having already been published in well respected journals. Some of them will have successfully published whilst in their PhD, others will have written the seminal text in their field. This is my competition.

My GSI (graduate student instructor) at Berkeley in the summer casually told me and my classmates that he is writing his dissertation while also writing another book on the side. He had been published for the first time during the fourth year of his program. Intimidating? Yes. Daunting? Yes. Debilitating? Not really but almost. Due to the obscure and tenuous nature of the humanities in Academia, there will probably only be a few professorial positions on the market for which I am qualified to teach when I get my PhD. I’ll toss my name into the ring, of course, but what are the chances that an institution is going to hire me when/if I have no publications? More to the point, ​why do publications matter so much​? I am the product of a Great Books program, which really just means that I was able to indulge in learning for the sake of learning. My undergraduate tutors, professors and mentors encouraged me to satiate any intellectual curiosity that came across my mind, so long as I grounded my interests in logical arguments and analysis of primary texts. I did what they said. I read a lot of books, ones that I wanted to read simply because they were interesting and ones that were mandated by the curriculum. The world of publishing seemed like such a non-issue for me as a young, naive, but avid student of the liberal arts. But now that I leave my nest and make way towards the real world of Academia, I remain fixated on that dilemma. “Publish or perish?” I thought to myself as I walked from Berkeley’s campus to Casa Zimbabwe, “Says who? I want to speak to the manager! Why do institutions of learning and knowledge value so highly the act of publishing? How the hell did this come about?” And then I realized something rather remarkable – my questions regarding the present value of publishing has merit in its own right, but it ironically serves as a damn interesting research topic for grad school.

I began, that very same day, scouring the internet to see if I could locate any texts that would shed light on the history of publications, and history of the book. What I found was more interesting than I could have imagined. Enmeshed into this question is a half-millenium-long debate regarding notions of patenting systems, literary proprietary, copyright, and intellectual property law1. I began to study the history of the book and discovered that there was a growing drive to capitalize on the intellectual world when the printing press was introduced to Europe in the 15th century. With the introduction of the printing press, people could write, edit, publish, sell, and transmit knowledge so much easier than ever before. Yet apprehensions over authorial rights began to take hold over people who wrote texts or were in possession of some craft knowledge. This was a valid concern because, as some of us unfortunately know, people will steal your stuff or take credit for your work in a damn heartbeat. Fricken piracy.

I cannot stress this enough: the following narrative on the history of the book and the history of publication is a major ​oversimplification. ​I merely paint a picture with very, very broad strokes. From that moment on, patents were granted on a more regular basis. Once a patent was secured, no one else could claim that the work/craft was theirs. This effectively meant two things: 1) anyone violating the patent (by reduplicating the author or craftsman’s work without permission) would be breaking a law. This endeavor sought to eliminate the rampant piracy practices taking place when people discovered that they could simply counterfeit works and sell them as their own and 2) anyone in possession of a patent, i.e., an “author” or “inventor”, could legally gain as much financial compensation for the mental labour exerted in the writing as was sold in the form of print. The potential for a mercantile enterprise in the form of a book trade became apparent. In $hort, people learned that you can $tart making $ome cheddar a$ an author and producer of knowledge (or a$ a counterfeiter).

This guiding principle of commercialization governed the book trade henceforth and, therefore, the culture of intellectual life as well. It originated through trade secrets in the guilds of the 12th century before manifesting into the attitudes towards craft knowledge and literary authorship. It was present when Filippo Brunelleschi refused to unveil his craft knowledge of how to construct the Duomo in Florence unless he received a patent; it was present when Aldus Manutius established his printing press in Venice in the late 1400’s, and when he warned readers against counterfeit printers of Lyon who were selling his editions of classical Greek and Latin texts; it was present when the Stationer’s Company in England during the 16th century was tangled up in legal battles of who deserves credit for what idea, and therefore who would receive what financial compensation; it was present during the Scientific revolution when Boyle, Fitzgerald, and Walcot all raced to develop a machine ​for desalinating salt water, so as to be left with “pure” water and salt alone, and by extension also discover a means to carry out nautical operations more conveniently. When navigating the oceans, whether it be upon endeavors of international trade or naval expeditions, seafarers had necessary cause to bring their ships to shore for the sake of acquiring fresh water. A desalination machine would effectively reduce this need by dramatic degrees, thus enabling seagoing expeditions to ensue more efficiently than ever before. A working desalination

machine, much like the other aforementioned examples, would arguably bolster the economic market while also augmenting the credited inventor’s monetary status​.

On the other hand, some viewed the monopolization of knowledge as a sad, detrimental practice in the transmission of knowledge and learning. One such example (among countless others) is when Francis Moult acquired a published copy of Nehemiah Grew’s2 medical treatise written only in Latin, a text intended for a Latin reading audience only. Moult translated the text into English and sold it. He was concerned with accessibility of texts and knowledge, and found it abhorrent for some elitist dude to preserve medical information to Latin readers alone. For Moult, pirating a published work was not a ploy to elevate his financial status; he simply aimed to make the text accessible due to his sense of social responsibility. Hell yeah, Moult. Fight the system! Rage against the machine!

Moult’s sentiments are still relevant today. Criticism towards that reality of ​publish or perish​ is still ripe amongst graduate students and professors alike. This summer, I was privileged to live in the same Co-Op as a curious science-minded fellow in a science-related PhD program at Cal. Let’s just call him Derick. He appeared to dedicate much of his time to the indulgence of his curiosity by concocting random experiments as he so desired. He had a certain air to him, an aroma of experimental philosophy that emanates from the empiricist attitudes during the scientific revolution. His funky endeavors ​would always call to my mind the Baconian method of experimental, practical, empirical knowledge, elaborated and enumerated in Book II of ​Novum Organum Scientiarum, ​and in the “New Science” espoused in ​New Atlantis​ as well. Several times did I find Derick undertaking random experiments in the house with equipment that he jerry-rigged from household appliances. I once said goodnight to Derick as he was recording data from an experiment on the bottom floor of our co-op. It was sometime around 1:30 am. I woke up around 8 am and went to the balcony to have a cigarette. He was still there, wearing the same clothes, continuing on with the same task of data collection. He had hardly moved, save to record his data.

Nehemiah Grew is credited with the “discovery” of Epsom Salt, which was really just a specific kind of salt found in the town of Epsom.

In between the drags of our cigarettes, we lamented over the messed-up reality of ​publish or perish​. “Why”, we bemoaned, “doesn’t Academia just let me live the life of the mind?” In the midst of those laments, he was procrastinating on writing his dissertation, and I was procrastinating on my upcoming research and writing. Like children complaining of a toothaches while throwing yet another jolly rancher in their mouths, we complained about the institutional demand for publications while not seeking to get published. Yet we both knew how prudent it would be to try writing and publishing some delicious stuff if we intend to survive in Academia.

I guess a certain question still looms under the surface of these apprehensions: do I want pursue a career in Academia? The notion of ​public or perish​ is a lot of pressure. After all, Academia, so I’m told, boils down to one of two things. Would I rather publish or perish in Academia? Honestly, dude, I don’t have an answer for that question. What I do know, however, is that I found a research topic that really butters my biscuit. I’ve been reading about the history of the book and history of publication since mid-summer as if my life depends on it. And, to be frank, it sometimes does feel like my life does depend on it, but only when I forget that I have back-up plans. The ball is in my court. Maybe I won’t get a job in Academia. Maybe I will. But regardless of whether I work in Academia later on, I can still weasel some private institution into paying me for half a decade to indulge my curiosity in the history of publishing without ever getting published. That would be some next-level irony. Take that, Academia.

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