Campus Commentaries

Throughout the year, Davidson College hosts events that Humanities students can attend and then write a “campus commentary” in response. Below are extended versions of two of my campus commentaries.

Semester I

On Tuesday September 24th, I attended Davidson College Student Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. While I’ve attended my high school’s music concerts, I’ve never experienced this level of orchestra, which was much more advanced and sophisticated. Not only did the music sound amazing, but the conductor, concertmaster, and musicians were very cohesive and formally well practiced.

I enjoyed how the conductor provided background information about the piece and composer before the music began. In particular, she mentioned how we can never know exactly what Tchaikovsky’s thoughts were in creating his music, but that we have clues from his notes. This made listening to the concert more intriguing, as throughout, I would ask myself, why did the composer chose to do this? What emotions could he be trying to elicit? Also, 19th century compositions often tell a story, which is a type of music called, Program Music. With this in mind, I tried to visualize the narrative that the music was telling.

One of the realizations I’ve made this semester is understanding language’s boundaries. Language is often insufficient in accurately communicating and expressing emotions and experiences. The orchestral concert is a great example of how other studies in the humanities, like music, better convey human experiences. Music allows for communication and often can more accurately translate a story than literal words. This is especially relevant in this Orchestra Performance because they played Program Music where the composer tells a specific narrative in the music.

I’m happy that I got the chance to attend this performance. While I don’t listen to orchestral symphonies often, the music was beautiful. It was also great to support my classmates playing in the concert.

Semester II

On Sunday, February 16th, I attended this year’s Staley Lecture, titled “Eating as an Act of Justice: From Religious Food Ethics to Climate Action.” This lecture was presented by Matthew Halteman, a professor of Philosophy, vegan, and self-proclaimed lover of food. I went into this lecture very critical and apprehensive. From what I had heard about the topic, I was worried it was going to be the same unconvincing arguments that I had heard about eating vegan. I have a sister who eats a pescatarian diet and she’s told me about how a diet that includes meat is worse for your health as well as the climate (not to mention the cruel animal treatment arguments). I had always brushed it off, not believing that my diet was that significant or impactful.

Dr. Halteman’s lecture is different from other arguments for a vegan diet in that he approaches it from a philosophical and theological perspective. Halteman explains that while most people see their diets as a personal choice, such as choosing what color to paint your house, in reality, it is a decision on how to treat others because it really affects those around you. He argues that a plant-based diet is supported by Christian ideals, Jesus’ call for social justice in the Gospels, and simply good morals. I was blown away by this lecture. I walked away believing that I couldn’t call myself a good person if I was eating meat. Since that lecture, I have shifted to a pescatarian diet. (access to protein sources outside of fish is more challenging, so I can’t commit to vegan at the moment.)

In reflecting on this lecture and connecting it to my exploration of the “truth,” I think of this moment as the beginning of a personal paradigm shift. I hope that with more shifts in conceptual schemes regarding conscious eating and plant-based diets, we can start a revolution.