Fresh Air

  • Comments (0)
  • Email
  • ShareThis
  • Print
  • Text Size A A A

By Thomas Merton '38CC, '39GSAS, from his 1948 memoir, The Seven Storey Mountain. Merton, who died in 1968, was born one hundred years ago in January.

Columbia was, for the most part, stripped of fancy academic ritual. The caps and gowns were reserved for occasions which, as a matter of fact, nobody really had to attend. I only got mixed up in one of them purely by accident, several months after I had acquired my degree, rolled up in a cardboard container, through one of the windows of the post­-office-­like registration bureau in University Hall.

Compared with Cambridge, this big sooty factory was full of light and fresh air. There was a kind of genuine intellectual vitality in the air — at least relatively speaking. Perhaps the reason was that most of the students had to work hard to pay for every classroom hour. Therefore they appreciated what they got, even when there was not much in it to appreciate. Then there was the big, bright, shiny, new library, with a complicated system of tickets and lights, at the main loan desk: and there I soon came out with a great armful of things, books which excited me more than I now can understand. I think it was not the books themselves but my own sense of energy and resolve that made me think everything was more interesting than it was.

  • Email
  • ShareThis
  • Print
Log in with your UNI to post a comment

The best stories wherever you go on the Columbia Magazine App

Maybe next time