In March 2012, an extraordinary thing happened. The trees in Schenley Plaza—and all around Pittsburgh—bloomed. Like everyone else in Oakland, I celebrated by escaping outside every chance I could. I remember the warmth of the sun on my face while climbing Flagstaff Hill; seeing the reflection of leaves in the large windows of the Port Authority buses stopping outside the Hillman Library; listening to the laughter of children chasing each other up and down the stairs of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall; being overwhelmed by the shade of new, green leaves while descending into Panther Hollow. And although I’d been to all of these locations before, countless times, the early spring sun transformed them so much as to make them unrecognizable. It was as if I were experiencing them for the first time.
In room 151 of Thackeray Hall, a similar transformation was taking place, a transformation that would forever alter the way I imagine the University. It would be so easy to rely on a cliché to explain the genesis of the first issue of Forbes & Fifth: “A group of students learned the value in exploring their academic interests outside the classroom.” But no generalization is appropriate. What really happened is this: a group of nine people who believe in an idea—and believed in each other—changed the University. The idea they believed in is not a new one. In fact, it is quite old, and many people throughout time have expressed it in ways more eloquent than I ever could. The idea comes from thinkers of the thirteenth century like Thomas Aquinas, who writes, “Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.” It comes from exceptional educators like John Dewey, when he writes, “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” And it comes from poets like Sylvia Plath, who writes, “If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at the same time, then I’m neurotic as hell.” Like Aquinas, like Dewey, like Plath, these students have had the audacity to imagine a boundless knowledge not separated into narrowly defined categories. Knowledge, say these editors, is defined by curiosity, and, in the pages of Forbes & Fifth, they have dared to create an inclusive meeting place that does not separate the arts from the sciences and the “academic” from the “non-academic.” Having successfully edited five issues, they have amplified the voices of dozens of others who have wanted to say something that could only be expressed in an interdisciplinary manner. Forbes & Fifth is for the reader who feels the ache of a poem’s well-chosen line break; it’s the voice of the musician and computer scientist eager to explain the artistic merit of Super Mario Bros. 3’s musical composition; it’s for the reader who wants to understand the lyrics of Mongolian folk rock; it is the voice of Baudelaire who writes, “Whether you come from heaven or hell, what does it matter, O, beauty!”
And now, on this special occasion, it is the voice of the editors.
I wish I could explain how special each and every one of these students is to me. And I wish I could describe what I used to think a University could be before the spring of 2012. But I can’t. When I look back on the years before that bright flash of spring, I only see the artificial boundaries of those things that made us different. But when I consider the Forbes & Fifth body of work, I see a map to the future. If we are audacious enough to follow this map, it will lead to a University everyone might create together, rather than being the “hallowed” ground of an elite few. This is the legacy of our founding editors at the University of Pittsburgh, and every editor, contributor, and artist who has ever believed in the idea of Forbes & Fifth.