Massey College at the end of summer

Massey College is full of luxurious silence. At night, it is usually only possible to hear the water flowing into the pond in the main quad and the chirp of a few insects. The contrast with a room overlooking College Street is excessive, and the new transition has been a reminder of how important a home’s acoustic surroundings are for determining how pleasant or unpleasant it is to occupy.

We will see if the place becomes less tranquil as more of the junior fellows move in. For now, I am enjoying the ease with which I can pretend I am in rural Vermont, rather than the middle of Canada’s most sprawling metropolis.

It’s also remarkable to be living in a building designed by a single person (and a British Columbian) with the clear purpose of serving as a home for a group of young scholars. Some of this is revealed in tiny details, like how the desk chairs in the studies tuck elegantly against the side of the desk, or how the lamp behind the bed is designed to be easily turned on or off by a person reading. To get myself thinking about communal and intentional forms of living, I have been reading the Rule of Saint Benedict. It contains some good advice for people and communities in general, though I am glad not to be living in a place where supreme obedience to an abbot and scripture is a central part of life. Rather, the main aim will be to devote myself to scholarly work – research and writing.

Talking with brain scientists

There are several neuroscientists living in Massey and the other night one was telling me about glia cells – cells that support neurons by supplying nutrients and insulation, destroying pathogens, clearing out dead neurons, helping to clear the synapse of neurotransmitters, and performing other functions.

There is also interesting research being done on adult neurogenesis, including on where in the brain it takes place and what role it plays in the functioning of the brain.