By Owen Gemmer
Reprinted from The Moon, the student newspaper of the Santa Fe campus.
Three lectures, a workshop, a book signing, and a concert all happened on campus in the course of two days, and all to celebrate a long dead astronomer whose work is irrelevant to most people because of extraordinary advancements in modern science. But his work is not irrelevant to Johnnies, in fact it is quite the opposite. Kepler’s works are a cause for celebration!
On the surface KeplerFest was organized in honor of Tutor Emeritus Mr. Donahue’s recent publication of the first full English translation of Kepler’s treatise Astronomia Nova. But after attending every single one of the aforementioned events I figured out what it was really all about — being a nerd. Before I go any further I should be clear about how I’m using the term nerd: it is not an insult, it is a badge of pride. I have a poster on the wall of my dorm with a quote from John Green that encapsulates this definition,
Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff. Nerds are allowed to love stuff — like, jump-up-and-down-in-your-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is “You like stuff,” which is not a good insult at all. Like, “You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.”
And that is exactly what KeplerFest was, an opportunity for the entire community to be unironically enthusiastic about Johannes Kepler and his revolutionary ideas in astronomy.
In Mr. Donahue’s Friday Night Lecture, he walked us through a page of manuscript from Kepler’s Mars notebook that contained the insights that led him to discover that the orbit of the planet is an ellipse. His enthusiasm and excitement to share his findings were contagious, and sitting in the Great Hall I couldn’t help but feel a part of the rush of working through all these calculations that culminated in the breakthrough.
There’s a real value to this kind of unabashed nerdiness at St. John’s. My music tutor literally jumping up and down in his chair in excitement over a few measures of Bach, the collective WOAHs from my peers as we watched copper burn bright green, Thursday dinner conversations centered around ‘Dante just blew my mind!!’ — these are the moments that make the Program worth it. I’m not at St. John’s because I want to be a scholar locked in an ivory tower, or because I need a degree to get a certain job. It seems like most of my peers are similar in that regard. We’re here because we love learning. We’re here because we’re nerds.