A microcosm is a small environment that represents or embodies a more larger one. For example, a common science fair project is filling up a bottle with some plants, dirt, and water and creating a self contained ecosystem which represents the much larger jungles in the real world. Of course, microcosms are typically formed with a lot less panache and public notice. Most of them are sort of meta affairs, with people only realizing the parallels between the acro and micro in hindsight. Over the course of my last two quarters at Santa Clara University, I got to see my class sized microcosm grow.
With new faces, new material, new professors, and new goals, the class took a step of growth and self-discovery into the world that can best be described as maturityWhen we first started to take part in our CTW, we had three points of interest in our class. Humans, Animals, and Machines. What made each one unique, and what made them similar. Our professor wore sharp outfits, stood with a prominent power stance, and had a smile etched onto her face most of the time. Our reading covered a broad range of subject matter, authors, and genres. Among these were handouts of Report to an Academy, by Franz Kafka, and a film of Project Nim, directed by James Marsh. A piece of heavy speculative fiction which seemed like it could be true though it definitely was not, following the story of an ape turned man, followed by a documentary of an attempt to turn an ape into a human by teaching it sign language and raising it like a human were very stark contrasts of a sort of hypothetical work environment. In this case, everything had been worked out ahead for us. Our reading assignments and daily comments about this writing culminated in short discussions and the occasional paper that did about as much good for us as an already solved crossword puzzle. Which is to say that it introduced some ideas to us we might not have known, and really allowed us to often learn how to do from the professionals. The same way a finished crossword could greatly improve one’s vocabulary. And then we changed professors inbetween quarters. Suddenly our enviornment changed. We went to almost strict non-fiction with Eating Animals, by Foer, and a lot of articles of varying scholarly repute. Suddenly we were moving away from learning how to do, and instead becoming the doers. And what a change it was. If someone had told me that I would be writing ten page essays this year, I would have laughed at first until realizing it was a reality. But the funny thing is that it was alright. We had taken baby steps in our microcosms so we could accept This half a year long growth into being college level writers. From the hypothetical to the practical. From the poetic and philosophical to the scientific and factual. Our microcosm of students moved from one professor to another and adapted in a way that was interesting to see, as in my mind, it’s the teachers who are used to changing students, not the students used to changing teachers. It taught me something valuable. In the world of adults, the rules are not the same. As we grow, the grade isn’t as important as the audience and the result. Risks need to be made and research done. Citations are arbitrary but mandatory and sometimes it helps just to go that extra mile on a paper. We ended our class with a graduation speech, called This is Water, about taking the time to notice your surroundings and breath. And in that time I noticed just how much I have changed and grown with some of the individuals in this class. People who I thought I would forget the moment class was done are possibly going to be with me until I’m done with college if not longer. Now and forever, they will be a part of my growing microcosm in some way.
Franz Kafka, Report to an Academy
John Marsh, Project Nim
Johnathan Foer, Eating Animals
David Foster Wallace, This is Water