By Linda Smith
A & E Editor
Every Tuesday and Thursday of this semester, I’ve found myself directly behind the clear glass entrance to the offices of the Crow Collection of Asian Art. This door is preferable to the main entrance, as it is not directly cut off by a wall on the right, and it has the lettering indicating our offices. As such, any visitors we have usually enter here.
A group of well-dressed, middle-aged to elderly gentlemen walked in front of our glass facade one day as I worked on membership renewal letters. One stopped in, affluence shining out of his every pore and his perfectly coiffed silver hair. The man asked for someone in our Education department. I asked Susan, our consultant and my desk neighbor, if she knew the whereabouts of the person in question. She told the man that Education was in an all-day workshop, prepping for an incoming exhibition. The man then said something to the effect of “oh, but why learn anything? It’s not going to go with you when you die,” with a twinkle of a smile and a laugh.
I looked the man over with as much subtlety as possible as I sat behind the desk to his right. I knew he was joking from his tone and concomitant behavior, but I took the time to reflect on all the implications of his statement. Spoiler alert for “The Great Gatsby” in this sentence, but the man was a veritable Gatsby, if the title character had lived out a life happily wedded to Daisy. Life had not dealt him a cruel hand in terms of money, and I’m sure his house and possessions are a sight to behold. But then again, isn’t that, too, all going to go away when we die?
Susan went along with the man’s strange joke, and then politely replied that learning made life so much better while we were here. I couldn’t help but think a lot on her words and thoughts, and how we as students might take them to heart. Here she was, dealing with a type of person she normally has to deal with, and yet she was able to put to words a sentiment that I knew she truly felt, without being condescending or patronizing to the man.
After watching this exchange, I couldn’t help but think of how it could relate to our time as students at UD. The amount of time we spend reading Plato and Aristotle, and writing essays for history and English classes might not be a task we wish to undertake at any one moment, especially when TV shows and social prospects remain ever in our minds. And the elderly, real-life Gatsby was right: when we die, we will not ascend with all of our knowledge for prolonged use. But what we get is a chance to be more attuned to things that will truly enrich us on this earth. That, I think, is worth more than a lot of the things we concern ourselves with on a daily basis.