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Snapshot Harvard

By Adam I. Arenson

On this pleasant morning, with the wind blowing a quiet melody through the trees and the dappled green of Tercentenary Theater flapping with the black and crimson robes of the occasion, there is no denying the beauty of this moment. The solemn processions, the lovably pretentious advice, the University Choir in tune—one could hardly ask for a better way to become an educated man or woman.

Given the effort put forward, I hope you, our parents, teachers and friends, enjoy this moment. We have put up with roped-off grass and early-morning mowers for this aesthetic picture. We have haggled over cap and gown deadlines and sweated through certain hours of class (I think especially of Core section) in order to ensure our attendance—working especially hard in this last semester, after you had already bought the tickets to come. With you here, all the tired standards of the Square and ironic inconveniences of Harvard life are new again. In your presence, the administration perks up; the grass, grown lush while we did not notice it, is opened for our dignified entry.

As we sit here this morning, to graduate, we make one more request: take pictures. Lots of them. Rolls and rolls. Give us a camera and let us take pictures of each other. Try to document each moment, official and unofficial, of our final day at Harvard, from bagpipes to boxes, diplomas to dinner out. Take pictures of the little things that catch your eye, things we walk past without thinking.

Take pictures because we do not understand what happens today. We have not been prepared for it. We stayed up all night in hopes that final conversations, final packing, final experiences might tell us what it means to have studied at Harvard, and now to be graduating, but we do not know. In a kind of shock, we sit here before you, each moment trickling out before the next. From your vantage point, it must make some kind of sense; taken from afar, you may have the perspective in years and dollars paid of what this means today. Our mortarboards and sunglasses hide our confusion, as we huddle nervously between the trees.

Take pictures because we will want to remember this day, if only to look on it with the faint smile of half-recognition. Like the pictures from move-in years ago—our broad smiles with the roommates we grew to love, or hate—these too will seem somewhat foreign. An enthusiasm we see as unwarranted for anywhere but a grandparents’ refrigerator, perhaps, or a reticence the future us cannot understand. Was today not the happiest day of our lives? If so, we were too excited to know, too tired, emotionally and physically, to think about it. So take pictures, so we can at least know we attended, and that it came out alright.

But pictures will never be enough. Today, we leave our undergraduate years behind. And no matter if we take every rubber cemented tchochke off the wall, every note marred by daydreaming and every congratulation on a thesis well done, they cannot capture what is gone. Where is the first snowfall, the first beer, the first love, lost? Where is the last class, the best friend, the last snack stolen from the dining hall? Nothing remains; we forgot to take pictures and now we find memories must suffice, fade as they may. The picture lies, anyway; must hides behind the edges, as deadlines loomed and worries, foolish now, haunt its shadows. At best, pictures can serve as talismans, as the hidden corners are painted in the warm light of memory.

So take pictures for us, of this beautiful, overwhelming moment. Please.

Adam I. Arenson ’00-’01, a history and literature concentrator in Lowell House, was an associate editorial chair of The Crimson in 2000.

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