Monday, October 12, 2009

The Immortal Princetonian

On the outskirts of the Princeton campus, far out into Palmer Square, lies a figure so reminiscent of our present reality that we fail to notice his presence. While we are busy getting “Princetowned” by academic and extracurricular commitments, this stranger sits beside the flowers in the Square, surrounded by wooden benches and a multitude of stores.

The bronze sculpture, entitled “Out to Lunch”, is by J. Seward Johnson Jr., grandson to the founder of the Johnson & Johnson Corporation. It is one of 8 sculptures of the same name that can be found throughout the country, each reading a different book and holding distinct objects. Our statue is attentively reading page 84 of Milton Friedman’s book, There is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. This section of the book corresponds to a Newsweek article “Is Money Too Tight?”, which Friedman published on September 23, 1974. With his other hand the statue is holds a hamburger, and to his right sits a pile of more books. While both the sculpture and Friedman’s text date back to the 1970’s, their presence may be timeless. There is something so inexplicably heartwarming about this bronze man, something so strangely familiar.

So what is it that makes this statue so quintessentially Princetonian? No, it’s not the fact that it’s overlooking J.Crew, or that my economics problem set is also on monetary policy. Somehow, that bronze statue of a man out to lunch embodies who I will become –or hope to become –in the next four years. His dedication to academia, as indicated by the hefty amount of books; the fine-tuned skills in multi-tasking, demonstrated by his ability to eat and read at the same time; and his keen interest in scholastic work, which drives him to read by public spaces in uncomfortable positions, serve to foreshadow the years that are to come. To be deserving of the right to leave this Orange Bubble, I must become like our friend, the nonchalant reader. No, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

But just as I must emulate him, Johnson’s statue will eventually emulate me. Even after I have graduated and exited Fitz-Randolph Gate, my identity as a Princeton student will be laden in this statue’s bronze structure. My thoughts, habits, preoccupations, and aspirations as an undergrad will not dissipate –they will be condensed into the figure of a scholarly man, who will propagate my legacy to the incoming generations of freshmen, as they stumble upon his elusive presence.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't the Prox be more like Bwog?