Pomeranz: Dream of quondam Yale

One of these morning you gon’ rise up singin’

Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky

But til that morning there’s a-nothin’ can harm you

So hush, little baby, don’ you cry

—George Gershwin

Last night I dreamt of Yale, New Haven church bells echoing the hour off Gothic nighttime walls surrounding the best and brightest of our broad continent. I dreamt of alumni returning, applauding us for our vital national service of school. We saluted one another, sang Bright College Years and the class of 1945W led a parade through the Green as we marched arm in arm.

Following the rules of slumber, my dream continued with a shift. Now Yalies stood in Davenport College at a festival. There was a bonfire and jugglers: One kid juggled seven oranges, another two clubs and a job. The main event: Yalies fighting an intellectual war. The traditionalists and the radicals grappled on principle. J.S. Mill served as acting Master and arbitrated the contest — ideas clashed and he selected the winners. Afterward, the plan was to adjourn to Mory’s latest acquisition — Toad’s.

Per usual, I ran late, and ran so slowly in my dream. I ran to the Davenport courtyard ready for my part in battle. I wanted to talk about how the radicals had triumphed over tired structures — most recently the News’ layout; prior to that, more substantive problems of class and gender — but had failed to confront the subtler forms that locked out kids whose daddies weren’t rich and whose mommas weren’t good looking. “Why should we care about something just because it is old?” the radicals asked. And I wanted to say, “Maybe some of the old things are good, and maybe some newer things are most tyrannical of all — the iPods and the graduate degrees you have to buy just to be an ‘educated’ person.”

When I finally got to Davenport, I found a Cottage party. I recognized only one kid, all the way across the room, I think the one who didn’t talk much in DS. “Pomeranz?” he asked. “What are you doing here? You don’t go out!”

Humming some mixture of the alma mater and Livin’ on a Prayer, I woke up, a senior with a midterm. The midterm went fine, I think, but the senior part is going less well. Every day I find myself confronted with a new pal: “Pomeranz, what’s wrong? You don’t look so well.” Dear all: I’m fine. Like you, I’m a bit overwhelmed. We’ve theses and job talks and holidays and senior class events and we’re singing all the while. This is news to no one. But if you’ll excuse the simile, we’re like our struggling financial markets. It all works so long as no one says “boo.” But when someone asks you what you’re doing next year, to heap metaphor on metaphor, all the oranges come crashing down. So we go from class to job talk to senior “Keys to the City,” locked in a persona we’re too afraid to leave and singing at the top of our lungs, hoping to scare away the scary, scary world.

We’re totally crazed because no one has centered us. The only meaning we know are the meanings of the markets — this year’s styles, taking Accounting because you’ll get a better job — and the markets aren’t doing so well right now. So even if we’re not asking Yale to give us meaning, maybe the radicals are wrong: Until they give us something better to believe in, the old rituals keep us flying.

We seniors are taking wing at the end of the year. Even you, underclassmen, have been singing about those gliding years since day one of freshman year; you’ll be gone soon.

In my dream, Old Blue was resurrected and conquered the new. The waking world is quite the opposite. Our rituals of working hard and playing hard, of prepping to work at investment banks — oops — of grinding through section and dressing up for “out,” are empty and oppressive, just like the old rituals. We wander along, as if in a dream, and when we feel the ghosts of doubt catching up to us — why, again, did I come to Yale — we run faster, but it seems as though we’re running oh so slowly.

Michael Pomeranz is a senior in Silliman College. Contact him at michael.pomeranz@yale.edu.

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