While huddled under an archway this past Tuesday night, thoroughly wind-blown and sodden, some of my fellow juniors and I had a conversation with a police officer who had been posted under that archway, presumably to deter people like us from doing anything much crazier than standing there and looking silly.
After pointing out that he was the only one of the four of us who was dressed for the weather (undeniably true) and telling a story about the perils of taking taxis in Saudi Arabia (rough times, apparently), the officer took a long, hard look at us before asking, “Why is this (indicating a nearby cadre of masked renegades) worth all this (indicating our wet, shivering bodies)?”
A great question. And not one, despite our fumbling explanations, that any of us were particularly well-qualified to answer. At least, not for another year. This is rather dangerous logic, I suppose, because waiting a year to find out the worth of something you’re suffering for now is a bit like eating an entire vegetarian Wenzel at four in the morning because you anticipate being hungry in four days. Which certainly isn’t something I have recent, painful experience doing. (Also, turns out there are vegetarian Wenzels! Who knew? They taste fine, which for all I know is how good real Wenzels taste, but of course if I knew that I wouldn’t need to turn to the depoultrified version).
So — why? The class of 2015 is already an absurdly select bunch — the 7.35% cream of the crop. Not as select, of course, as the Rumpus’ 99th percentile of campus beauty (some people are just very special), but certainly deserving of a pat on the back and some mild posturing. Why do exclusive institutions feel the need to further divide themselves into cells of even higher exclusivity? For a self-professed community, there are certainly plenty of not-very-permeable walls — tombs, global affairs majors, residential colleges for all those not living in them, dining halls for off-campus galley rats like myself. And no, that sentence does not convey thinly veiled longing to be a global affairs-majoring froco who lives on-campus when not cavorting with his/her landed society. Well, at least not that much.
Weighty stuff. I apologize. This is WEEKEND, after all. And yet that brief chance at seeing the whole hullabaloo through the police officer’s eyes was both illuminating and unsettling. For all the shit I do at this school, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about how “worth it” any of it really is. Any standard cost-benefit analysis would tell me that spending exorbitant amounts of hours and GPA points putting up a play that fifty people see or writing a column that seven people read is not the best use of my time. Not that those acts don’t have intrinsic merit, but if we’re assuming that performance is supposed to be a communal event and newspapers are supposed to be forums of communal conversation, the extent to which those are true at Yale, and the extent to which I act like those should be true at Yale, are not remotely equivalent. Any hazing more intense than balancing an egg on a spoon is definitely not “worth it,” in any conventional sense. Learning languages other than Chinese or Spanish? Not worth it. Eating food other than G-Heav egg sandwiches? Shaving? Sleeping? I mean, seriously, what’s the point?
A question you might very well be asking, so I’ll be brief. Our life here is not one of simple trials and rewards. It’s more a soufflé aux mélange des batons et carottes, a meal for which no cost or calorie count will do justice. And one to which everyone is prohibitively allergic to large sections, whose inaccessibility serves somehow to highlight the subtlety of the available portions.
Extended and slightly obtuse metaphors?