The Chestnut Tree

The point of the chestnut tree is that it is not a chestnut tree. It simply exists, free of ‘essence’, or any assigned meaning. It is at that moment that Antoine is pulled from the past he has immersed himself in (his book), and is fully aware of what the nausea which has been ailing him truly is. It is the sickening awareness and freedom that is caused by his realization that essence is nonexistent. Everything is given unnecessary essence by people who never realized, like Antoine did, that everything simply, and only, exists. Names, descriptions, and attached emotions are fabrications of lesser human minds, all made up to mask the “obscene nakedness” of existence.

            Antoine immediately is rendered speechless when he tries to describe the chestnut tree, and is suddenly aware that is so because words do not describe anything real or tangible. Colors, like the purple suspenders, are only words and descriptions manufactured by man to hide an objects true existence. He realizes that his nausea is caused by the fact that he is surrounded and trapped in a world of fake, unreal things like color. This epiphany triggered by the tree suddenly wakes Antoine to the fact that humans attach meaning to give things a purpose for existing. The root is not a root, it is not black, it just is. He is jarred by his abrupt understanding and decides that the idea of something existing for a purpose is ludicrous. He asserts that everything is contingent and fortuitous, and that his existence, along with everything’s, is just a fortunate accident  

The “Monster Study”

During the 1930’s, a speech pathologist, Dr. Wendell Johnson, set out to prove that stuttering was a curable infliction. He took a sample of 22 orphans in Iowa, and split them into two groups, those who supposedly stuttered, and those who did not. However, only half of the ‘stuttering’ group actually stuttered. Dr. Johnson instructed the staff of the orphanage, under false pretenses, that the group of ‘normal’ speakers should be praised and rewarded for their speech, while the other group should be punished and harassed. The children who had not previously stuttered, but were being labeled and tormented as such, quickly began to stutter.

Although the experiment was to test the origins of childhood stuttering, I find it interesting that the  children assumed the labels they were given, despite no previous signs of stuttering. Similar to the Stanford prison experiment, this study gives us a great deal of insite into how we, as humans, define ourselves. Unlike the Zimbardi study however, the children were not particularly given a role; they were grouped together and treated poorly, and thus, succumbed to the expectation to stutter. Obviously, we draw a lot of our personal identity from how others identify and treat us. 


            Kyla Oglesbee, wife, mother, and teacher, passed away this past Wednesday in her home of natural causes. Born in Oxford, OH, Mrs. Oglesbee moved to Cincinnati when she was 19 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in archeology from the University of Cincinnati. After marrying her husband, Jordon Kuhn,  whom she had dated since enrolled at Talawanda High School, she moved to Charleston, SC and attended the College of Charleston. There, she obtained her bachelors and masters degrees, and began teaching college courses when she was 25.  Kyla and Jordon had two children, Sunny and Charlie, who remember their parents being very loving and nurturing. After having her children, Kyla returned to academia, gaining her doctorate degree and becoming a faculty member of CofC. Kyla specialized in Biblical archeology, and is remembered as someone who was passionate and dedicated to uncovering the truth about subjects such as the Gnostic gospels. Her controversial writing and discoveries in the field led to contention, but also a notable change in attitudes regarding the Gnostic gospels. Kyla traveled to the middle east to excavate many times in her life, oftentimes bringing her family with her. When her children were in high school, the family moved together to Israel so that Kyla could further her research while on sabbatical. Kyla obtained tenure at her alma mater, the College of Charleston, and had a successful career. She retired at the age of 65 and moved to Savannah, GA with her husband. She became a philanthropist and restaurateur when the couple opened up a steak house, Sunny’s, which is still held esteem in the Savannah restaurant elite. The couple enjoyed their entrepreneurship and retirement together, until Jordon’s passing two months ago. Kyla died peacefully in bed, of natural causes, this past Wednesday. She will be remembered as someone who was devoted and truth-seeking, open minded and loving.