Biennial flowers root superficially, seldom penetrating a foot in depth.
Perhaps this is just a me problem, but every time I’ve been alone in the desert for prolonged periods of time I think that I am on the brink of death. I mean, death is all around me. Everything is still and most of the outside of plants are dead, the rocks are dead, the bones are dead. On top of all that, I am completely alone—nobody would find me if I were hurt, there’s no food or water anywhere, I’m subsisting on exclusively CLIF bars. It feels like being unrooted, floating, sailing, I might say—a weightlessness of rubbing against the eternity of death.
The isolation ground rule negates the DNA ground rule because isolation operates like a drug. It changes the texture of your being, one might say. When one stands upon the Druid at the edge of isolation, one can turn their head in one of two directions. In one, the green patch fixes one’s gaze, and you stare into the distant eyes of every Deep Springer. In the other, you turn away from all eyes, into a sea which swallows up humanity, and you become a lens with nobody looking through it. Isolation is two-fold: it fixates one either on the community or on the utter lack of it, depending on the gaze and where you are.
Last year, during Term 4, we were thrown off the top of the Druid. I landed in North Carolina, surprisingly enough. Biennial plants follow the flood to lower elevations. I got super high for about a week straight with some of my best friends in a cabin in the woods. One of my friends, Simone, was going through something akin to a breakup at the time. I don’t remember the details. One night, she stepped out of the house, concentrated with the aromas of smoke and fresh wood, into clear air where her tears flowed. I paused my Rocket League bender to talk to her. We sat in two rocking chairs, moving trees, looking into the forest in the dead of winter. Rot was everywhere—leaves decaying, logs eaten; death was alive. She told me that her boyfriend didn’t understand her, that it felt like they were having the same conversations on repeat, because they knew each other so well that they had nothing more to say. Except jokes. Fair enough.
The voice of the desert negates speech and never repeats itself. I was alone in the desert about 7 weeks ago. Eureka Valley, trying to get back to Deep Springs. Rocks everywhere. Massive. Larger than any building on campus. Water failed to crack these ones down. No sense of direction—the desert is a sea insofar as everything is a morphless, repetitive blob. I fell at some point, trying to get somewhere. My quad refused to have life. I figured I would eventually too. Biennial plants give up after two years.
Isolation is the only reason Deep Springs is anything special. By fixing our gaze upon either looking out, into the desert, or looking towards, into the eyes of each one of us, we form ourselves as a community. All of us know what it’s like to look out here—and we form the other object of everyone else’s sight. Since we only look two ways, there is no need for us to repeat conversations, or for us to explain ourselves. Our words already have that bedrock. Everyone’s already in everyone’s eyes and shoes.
Deep Springs is a language game. So much goes without saying. The aura of the Handbook, the mist of history, the flavor of everyday events, fills into our noses, clouds our eyes, covers our tongues and we feel everything through its tint. We understand the pillars intuitively, we understand the schedule, we understand how to reject the question, what seminar is like, the fundamental tensions intrinsic to life here, the blurred public/private, we all understand almost everything about the context we bear to one another. Everyday life carries the immanence of Deep Springs which we can only experience and never remember. If we look down from a distance at what each of us do and say, all of us are pretty much the same person.
The ground beneath us slips with each step. Footprints leave depressions sculpted by wind days later. Trudging through the silent sea, skimming its surface, we fail to feel the geologic disturbances that erected the boundaries of the cup in which we live. Biennial plants are always ready to ride down a wash when the rain falls.
The Deep Springs language game rests upon two basic words born of the gaze of the Druid–that of looking at the community; We; and that of looking away from oneself and into the sea; You. We fill these two words, We and You, with the shared context of Deep Springs. Everything beneath these two words is unsaid; we already understand it. The one word we negate, the only one outside of the Deep Springs language game, is “I.” We give speeches to fill up the “I.” Our conversations dwell in the main circle, within the We and You—they play on the fact that we understand life here. The “I,” at Deep Springs, can only come forth in monologue at the podium. Isolation is a drug; we cannot converse outside of the main circle.
Alone in the cabin, rocking, back on forth, I pondered the substance of the mesh between the community. My face was somber, I was sober. When I figured it out, I started twitching. I called Deep Springs and I let them know, “Hey, I want to let you know that you have another interview…yeah you’re in!”
I was alone in the desert 7 weeks ago. I was incredibly high, I was thinking all these thoughts about the valley. Simone was there with me, as were all of my friends. We were lost in the largest buildings I’d ever seen, boulders that threatened to bring us to their level—to use force, turning us into objects. I was high on isolation.
Deep Springs begs us to turn towards one another through isolation. To resist is to plant roots where they cannot stay, to ground oneself in a sea. We cannot stop loving one another—by which I mean we are too close to each other to look outside of each other. To do “politics,” in the traditional sense of the term, is to feign distance—to pretend that we are not, from the moment we fall into this Beyblade arena, constantly bumping into one another, moved by each other. Our ground is in each other, not in the land itself. My roots are in everyone in this room, and I’ll carry your soil for the rest of my life.