As I thumbed through Ken Murphy’s Jackson book, I was initially confused at the photo for Millsaps. While I was a student there, the observatory wasn’t used often. Occasionally, a campus-wide email would announce that the observatory would be open for viewing some lunar/ stellar/ otherwise spacey event, but I never managed to show up. And when I think of Millsaps, my iconography of the college revolves around other structures: the Christian Center, the Academic Complex, the bell tower.
I didn’t understand Ken’s reasoning behind the observatory being the representative image of the college. But, since I have an English degree from Millsaps, I thought.
At the risk of sounding too metacognative, I thought about all of the thinking I did while I was there. [Metacognative: thinking about one’s thinking. A word I learned at Millsaps.] One of the texts I read my freshman year was Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” (thank you, Dr. Wilson) in which the philosopher challenges the idea that seeing something means it is absolutely true. When the poet John Milton met Gallieo, Milton’s understanding of what is versus what he could see was expanded beyond his own failing eyesight (thank you, Dr. Page). Despite my status as a WASP male, I was able to read and understand writers like Alain Locke (thank you, Dr. Smith) and Toni Morrison (thank you, Dr. MacMaster) and Palo Frerie (thank you, Dr. Middleton). I was introduced to Eudora Welty’s writing, and her stories have stuck with me like a kind memory (thank you, Dr. Marrs). With my minor in secondary education, I was given insight into the way students learn best (thank you, Dr. Schimmel, Dr. McCarty) and how to effectively transmit instruction to them (thank you, Dr. Vaughn, Dr. Garrett). I learned to see both broadly and tightly, to make connections between ideas and people that, at first glance, might be worlds apart. There is only one story that’s been written over and over and over again, and that story is the weird journey of humanity (thank you, Dr. Miller). So many of my professors forced me to think about things I had never considered, to look at things in a way that wasn’t easy or natural for me, and to understand that my view of the world isn’t the only way of seeing things.
It turns out, Ken was right. Observatories allow us to look beyond ourselves, to see what we normally wouldn’t be able to, just like Millsaps did for me.
Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com.