I miss the cleanliness of college campuses, especially classrooms. In every classroom in every campus there is a kind of cleanliness that helps learning along its way. It’s like a mental lubrication. At IU this was very prominent, even in old builds where everything in a classroom could be made of wood, that wood was lacquered, and thickly, to be as plastic when cleaned and sprayed with whatever bleach-based thing they coated and wiped off every known surface. Something about the peacefulness in classrooms in Ballentine Hall, where my mind wandered during a lecture, was helped along by these clean rooms, when all that mattered was listening to the TA or professor, and nothing else intruded from the outside world. It was calming, especially in the morning, with coffee. Campuses, particularly during my undergrad, had a kind of focusing effect. I can’t say I ever felt that particularly well on Madison’s campus, other than in the Engineering building, which really felt like a college building. The Educational Sciences building and the Teacher education building never really felt the same as most of the buildings on IU’s campus, or particularly at Purdue’s campus, my most college of college experiences. Everything there was new, and it was all connected; there was no reality to intrude upon students walking its brick sidewalks watching and darting in and out of brick buildings.
In every other context we bemoan florescent light, but in a classroom it is somehow welcome in its neutrality. It’s like the sea the way it spreads over the ceiling and falls down walls onto a polished grey-speckled polished white floor. It renders the white or pink paper handouts before us with perfect legibility. For the most part the white light of heaven is never rendered as purely as the fluorescent overhead lights of a classroom. Heaven’s light is limned in gold, but the classroom’s isn’t at all, just pure. This clean light amplifies the cleanliness of the classroom, because in it any dirt or filth is rendered in stark contrast to everything else, and all eyes focus on it. Even stained and trampled parquet carpet seems untouched as the stains have been radiated clean by fluorescent light.
I miss this, mostly because I will never set foot in a classroom again as a student, and moments where I could appreciate all this subtle beauty would be few and far between.