When I arrived at Cornell my freshman year, I was a little bit skeptical about what my experience as a timid, scarf-wearing girl from a big, diverse city might be. Sure, Cornell was located in New York, a highly liberal state, but let’s be honest: Ithaca is in the middle of nowhere. And if I had learned anything from living in Texas, it was that the “middle-of-nowhere” towns were always the most…problematic. Not to mention, I had an idea of Cornell students as being a bunch of rich kid hotshots with copious amounts of privilege and none of the self-awareness to go with it. I recognize now that Cornell is a very much a tolerant campus and I often feel a bit embarrassed by my initial stereotyping.
Hannah Arendt wrote that terror is the foundation of totalitarianism. The regimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin bound individuals into a single quivering mass through which terror coursed unhindered. Some say money is the root of all evil. I say fear is a more likely bedrock. Fear was an important, primal reaction that helped our ancestors survive – and we are all descended from the same; all races can trace their lineages back to the same primate forebears – in a dangerous world.
Buzzfeed, or some similar listicle oracle, recently informed me oh-so-helpfully of the top seventeen most romantic places to visit (I assume they meant with a partner and not just by yourself). Which, of course, got me thinking – what makes a place romantic? I guess this is where we have to admit that romantic means something different for everyone. So dozens of people might call Ithaca’s gorges romantic, but to one person that might mean, “Damn, these gorges really make me wanna bang anything that moves,” and to another, “Golly doesn’t this gorge just make me want to stare at the moon and talk about our spirit animals,” and to yet another person, “This would be a postcard-perfect place to begin an attempt to beat the 50% odds of divorce.” And yet, most people can agree that scenic vistas of nature are romantic, similar to cute or expensive restaurants or places that are quiet and private. Then, you have misattribution of arousal – a term used in psychology – which is actually pretty trippy.