I was a philosophy major in college. Like most philosophy majors, I took a course focusing in large part on Descartes. For some reason, on the evening of December 1, 2010, I was discussing Descartes’ concept of “a clear and distinct idea” with a friend who would later assist me in my battle with server-side caching. Nearly 10 years later, I do not have a clear and distinct idea of the full context of our discussion. For some reason, I must have found it necessary to make an artistic representation of what we were discussing.

Microsoft Paint drawing by N.A. Ferrell of a stick figure with a tree drawn inside his very large head, which is larger than his body. There is an arrow from his head pointing at a tree, which looks the same as the tree in his head. However, the tree unintentionally looks like a mushroom cloud.
My depicting of a stick figure thinking of a tree. Created in Microsoft Paint at 11:02 PM on December 1, 2010.

At the time, people who saw my magnificent Microsoft Paint creation noted that it looked like the stick figure was thinking about a mushroom cloud.  To be clear, the stick figure was thinking about a tree.  Do you see the branches? It is clearly a tree. One of my friend’s professors famously, or infamously, said that “truth is like a tree.”  I have a clear idea that the above picture represents a tree, not a mushroom cloud.

While I know for sure that I was drawing a stick figure thinking about a tree, and that it had to do with Descartes and “truth is like a tree,” I do not remember the entire meaning of the picture. The stick figure probably has a clear and distinct idea of a tree. He is standing next to an actual tree. There are arrows connecting his large head with an idea of a tree to a tree. His head is large because it needed to be big enough for me to draw the tree inside of it.

Let no one say that the picture showing thought is not thought provoking.

Of course, that is just my best guess at what I was trying to draw. It may have just been a joke combining Descartes with the “truth is like a tree” quip. It probably was just a joke. But it was a long time ago, so who knows?

Despite being a philosophy major, I never contemplated being a professor.  This is primarily because few things sound less appealing to me than spending the rest of my life on a college campus.  For the most part, I did not even want to be on a college campus when I was in college – as evinced by the fact that I sometimes took the subway home for lunch on the two days I had a two hour lunch break between my morning classes and afternoon class (about a one hour round trip) before returning in the afternoon.  But, while much about this artwork has faded from my recollection, I know for sure that my deciding not to pursue the academic life was a great loss to many future students.