Please stop labeling the trees. I understand that you may think you are doing people a favor, assisting the avid tree lover or impressing a passerby, but you are not. No, you are simply undermining the process of discovery and deduction, and exacerbating humanity’s increasing dependence on immediate satisfaction.
Just the other day I stumbled upon some nuts laying scattered under a tree near East Pyne. These nuts caught my eye; not your typical tree acorns, these nuts looked…edible. On the move, I grabbed a cracked one and pocketed it for later. That night, after her initial shock at my newfound treasure, my roommate spent a couple of minutes with me looking up New Jersey nut trees, trying to match my nut with images from the internet. It wasn’t easy, but we had a few leads and I resolved to collect some more the next day for further inspection.
But that simply was not meant to be. For the next day on my way home from late meal, as I excitedly stooped down to gather some more specimens (in the dark, I might add), I heard my friend utter the five fateful words: “It’s a Chestnut Oak tree!” (Sorry to all readers for whom I have now ruined the mystery as well.) There, there on the very tree, was a plaque, a fucking plaque!
My mystery tree had a label. No more hours would be spent analyzing the nut and comparing its insides and outsides to fuzzy pictures from Google search. There would be no lingering uncertainty of the nut type. No small sense of risk as I would take a tiny bite. No sense of achievement and camaraderie between my roommate and me as we deductively discovered the natural world around us. Thanks, Princeton.
Princeton, labeling the trees is like providing us with all the answers to an exam. It’s like labeling the constellations. It’s like making everyone wear name tags 24/7.
It’s like providing us with little machines so that we have the answer to any question at our fingertips. It’s like naming buildings. It’s like giving us ways to track our friends. Labeling the food in the dining hall. Providing maps.
Just stop it, okay? Life has become too easy. Let us think, god dammit. Let us wonder, let us struggle, let us learn, and please, Princeton, please just let us speculate about nuts.
A peeved and perceptive pupil