The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday December 5th

Finding how to get to Mars

Last week, I went to the planetarium’s senior night, a very nostalgic, senior-y thing. It felt vast, scary, and as the screen rotated toward Mars, I was transported back to that little-girl place.

A fact: Last week, just a day after the Boston bombings, astronomers discovered the two most Earth-like planets in the very-distant constellation Lyra.

A bright spot, in an otherwise dark week — a dark year, really.

This is my last column in this space, an inevitably weighty task, because writing this column has meant the world to me. But also because I think it’s important to end by acknowledging what a rough year this has been for the community.

Just three Thursdays ago, UNC junior Laura Rozo died after a long battle with cancer.

I didn’t know her well, but to say the least: Laura was a remarkable person.

She left a blunt, unwavering commitment to cut through the bullshit and get to things that matter. In essence: don’t do things because they are good ‘networking.’ Don’t play games. Do what you love, and do it now, rather than later.

Sometimes I wonder how it would be to grow up in the age of space exploration, a time that seemed tinged with a sort of astronomical optimism.

And this is not to romanticize the Cold War, but just to say: Our generation doesn’t look far. We find the future not in untapped galaxies, but in better data. This programs us to brand our identities so that they give us better friends and jobs, to adopt capitalist modes of understanding one another.

I do not mean to be dramatic: Capitalism is not the end of ourselves, nor the beginning. But often, it comprises the middle.

It fragments the way we understand the casual politics of college life and distorts the visions we allow ourselves. The intellectual life becomes a means to an end, the emotional life an opportunity cost. We judge quickly, and this must partly stem from a fear of not belonging. Even here, in a place I love, I’ve never felt like quite enough.

But to scale back: the most meaningful moments I’ve had here are when, above the competition and comparison, real wonder emerges like a high-rise apartment to temporarily eclipse doubt. I’m talking about the quiet moments.

Sitting in the dark of a friend’s piano recital, totally windswept by beauty. An unexpected kindness from a professor that is so adhesive to our emotional imaginations, we don’t have time to be cynical. A hello to someone that turns into three hours at Cosmic. When we admire someone and actually say it. When we look up.

In a time of funding cuts and spiraling cynicism, I don’t know if we’ll know whether there is life on other planets. But people like Laura remind us that, at least, there is life here on earth — and either it is very long or it is very short. But it wants to be maximized. How there are no zeros among us. And how, ultimately, none of us can pass by each other without being affected.

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