Week 5: Week of the Pyroclastic Rain

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Friday, July 5, 2013


Caleb Heath

Today, we celebrate – our Independence Day!

Actually it was Thursday, but the virtues of a holiday should be celebrated every day. There are so many ways to exercise our liberty.

The third of Hu Jintao’s Eight Honors and Eight Shames says, “Follow science; discard ignorance.”

Choose to learn. Choose to teach.

We are all ignorant of many things; some trivial, some life-changing. So I try and learn every day, and encourage others to do so too.

That ends my sermon. It’s a message that ever goes out of style. Go learn something! Challenge your preconceptions! Renovate your brain!

Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the explosions.

We watched the fireworks from the base of the Washington Monument. It was surreal, much in the same way while I sit here and type, the leader of the free world sits at his own desk, not more than a mile away.

The pyrotechnics were incredible. They filled up the sky; balls of sparkling light seemed to rush down at us on the grass. More than once I thought they’d fall like brilliant meteors and scorch us all. The lights outpaced the reports, so a silent expansion would be heralded a few seconds later by cracks and booms. Smoke from shattered casings filled the sky with ragged clouds, forming a backdrop upon which new fireworks shone like stars in an artist’s conception of a nebula.

And then it was over.

We’d been surprised by the crowd when we arrived at the Mall. I’d been pessimistic and assumed it would be standing room only by the time we arrived, but we had found a nice patch to claim. It was a gathering, not a crowd, and when the celebration was over, it became a march as the great mass stood up and strolled away to sleep–or to continue celebrating, as we did.

I suppose I should have mentioned before how we spent the early part of the day. Ro got us all (myself, Darren, Dayton, Jaime, and Fiona) invited to a party held by the ex-fiancée of one of his mentors from Tennessee. I was fine with this and not at all afraid for my kidneys. It was an afternoon of swimming, pool, and fine food, including the freshest fruit salad I’ve ever had.

The rest of the weekend has passed uneventfully. I got a library card (guess where), went to the zoo (saw cheetahs, but not the spotted leopards), and journeyed to Arlington National Cemetery.

DC is expansive; it has a feeling of wideness created by the many instances of grand architecture. There seems to be much more sky here than I’m used to. This was impressed upon me at Arlington. It is the quietest, most desolate place I’ve found here, and you can walk for hours among the graves without seeing another living thing or hearing anything but the breeze. From the high places you can see the city in the distance, the monuments to Washington and Jefferson and the dome of the Capitol.

There are many graves I’ve yet to see, but I did find one in particular before I was chased away by the winds and the ominous sky. If you don’t know her, you should.

Caleb Heath