Up. What a great direction.


It is where we climb. Where the surf is. A superb movie.

You cannot not like Up. But I have a sinking feeling we have been giving it less recognition nowadays. It has become standard to greet others by asking them to acknowledge their aerial surroundings (see below).

What's Up? Not Down. Specifically, anywhere eye-level and above. A large field of vision to stop acknowledging, no? But Down has added a powerful tool to its arsenal: glowing screens, tiny and large. The screens are but one of several forces that have drained Up of its allure over the decades.

Up used to be all the rage. In Italy, cathedrals at the end of every alley fought for your precious upward gaze. Building facades doubled as intelligent billboards, illustrating stories for the illiterate (linguistics note: That's why building levels are called stories). But who looks up at a skyscraper for more than two minutes in America today? Same thing with ceilings. If you are not in Duncan Hall, ceilings are either plain white or those speckled panels that happily split with an amateur karate chop. Why do we only put patterns on the floor?

Electricity really beat down Up. Have you ever seen the night sky in person without light pollution? The closest I have come is off Lake Michigan, which awed me. Imagine Newton's night sky - you could have seen the Andromeda galaxy clear as day (at night). That vista would have inspired anyone to invent differential calculus. It's a good thing James Turrell gave us a way to play with the monochromatic Houston sky.

And the insidious car boxes our vision. I did not realize cars were a problem until I rode in a convertible. You think dashboards give you a good view of Up? Please. Sun and moon roofs? Cheap gimmicks. When the convertible's hood pulls back, the world opens up. If everyone drove convertibles, we would have more astronomers.

Up may be falling out of public approval, but we can bring it back if you do exactly as I did not.

A few days ago, I noticed a particularly nice sunset while walking to my room on the fabulous sixth floor of Lovett. I gazed for a few seconds, pulled out my phone, and tapped a photo of it to save for later (I had places to be). After a short pit stop, I exited my room and noticed someone leaning on the railing, gazing at the sunset. As I walked toward him, I thought his behavior peculiar - then mentally slapped myself. He was doing nothing wrong; I was. I took Up and made it Down, in its apex, no less. How shameful! I wanted to hug that guy and thank him, but he couldn't be bothered. He was busy enjoying the sunset.

Looking down is not all bad - most times, your head or neck is tired, or there are some nice flowers or a squirrel eyeing you. But looking down for looking down's sake is lazy, a submission to gravity, a lack of attention. On my pedestrian commute about campus, I frequently catch myself lapsing into these episodes, usually just before passing some stranger. Why don't I look up? Looking up makes you happier (psychology approved) - and more aware of your surroundings, so you don't walk right into a fountain. You also look at the interesting part of trees: the leaves. You might stop and observe the swaying of the boughs or the fluttering of a single leaf. And maybe after a few minutes, you will wonder at the incredible ability trees have to make a huge amount of mass and surface area to look so ethereal.

Keep your head down, and you close yourself off from the world. It will spin on without you. Keep your head up, and you open yourself to the world. It will return the favor.

Mitch Mackowiak is a Lovett College freshman and the Thresher opinions editor.