Mysterious smiles and unshaved faces
By Arash Emamzadeh
March 22, 2001
Several weeks ago, I was walking towards Buchanan Tower, in the rain.
On the way there, I started thinking about the meaning of faith. The fact
of the matter is that I used to be such a strong believer, but now everything
seems doubtful and uncertain. What has changed? Why doesn't the concept
of a cool, private, and enlightening path towards God interest me anymore?
In the Tower, I was entering an empty, well-lit elevator, when a deep
and unfamiliar voice whispered my name: "Arash!" I was about
to look back when the doors opened, unexpectedly.
"It was!" I responded while trying to swallow my surprise
at seeing so many people in Buchanan Tower.
I am usually the only one in the elevator when I go up the tower. The
large crowd, all of them apparently visitors, rushed in. The doors slid
shut with difficulty. With a loud groan, the elevator started up, or at
least that's what I thought, at first. Then I realized the elevator was
not moving at all. We were stuck. Somebody had to leave to lessen the weight,
but no one seemed willing. This was frustrating.
You see, I was on my way up to the top floor to discuss my favorite
philosophical book with my professor. It occurred to me, in that moment,
that we all wanted to go up, but for very different reasons. I wanted to
go up so that I could learn something about life and death, to satisfy
my own private thirst for knowledge. These visitors, on the other hand,
wanted to go up so that they could look down on students, cars, and trees,
and maybe take a picture of them: a picture of vulnerable life, of vulnerable
It was getting very hot. I turned around and looked at them as I wiped
my forehead impatiently. Mysterious smiles and unshaved faces. I thought,
Why had they come to the Tower? There are plenty of other places to visit
on campus. Buchanan Tower is strictly for the students and professors.
Even the discussions one hears in the hallways are not something that everyone
understands, or should try to understand. What did they want in the Tower?
Were they there to buy the building? I knew that the tower was not for
sale and it would never be."
Having forgotten about the voice that had called out my name earlier,
and having changed my mind about seeing my professor, I had no reason to
prolong my excruciating stay in the elevator, so I got off. I sank into
a chair as I started to cool myself down with a copy of the National
Enquirer, which I found in on a table.
Upset by the strangers, I thought to myself, Why did I choose to do
a project on this difficult book? There are other books that I could analyze.
Also, the purpose of book analysis is to get ready for the final essay,
and I know (and I feel) that I am well prepared. At least I am much better
prepared than the bunch of people who pushed me out of the elevator.
Before leaving the tower, I saw one of my good Persian friends coming
"Did you know that today is the anniversary of the Revolution?"
she said, insignificantly, as she continued on her path. The strangers
were waiting to go up the tower.