Tuesday night, I was getting drinks with my friend when a new email appeared in both of our inboxes. Sent from email@example.com and titled “A rant in your inbox! : P,” the message seemed at first to be either a prank or an inside joke on one of the far-too-many panlists I still receive emails from.
Scrolling through, I caught snippets that seemed one part jargon, one part rambling: “yale tunnels into a protagonist mythical space,” “faux-communal mass gathering,” “capitalist mimicry forces.” By the time my scrolling reached the bottom of the piece — where I was invited to “create poetry, create radiance that emanates from every pore of our being” — I was feeling like I’d rather ask the bartenders at Rudy’s to create me another drink, instead.
My friend and I laughed at how ridiculous the message was, took a stab in the dark at who we knew that might’ve sent out the 4000-word diatribe and went back to our drinks.
My reaction, in retrospect, was exactly the sort of sentiment castigated in the email. Instead of engaging in any meaningful consideration of an essay that had obviously taken substantial time and thought, I brushed it off as something not worth my time.
Now clearly, the rant could have benefitted from some organization, both of argument and of the physical text on the page. An occasional paragraph break would have been nice, and I wouldn’t complain if proper capitalization and grammar were thrown into the mix as well.
But the author gave readers a disclaimer addressing this criticism at the beginning of the piece: “Please, read this as fragments instead of a totality…. can’t currently bring myself to reformat raw thoughts.” One can argue that perhaps the author should have better structured the piece before blasting it to the student body, but to disengage entirely with its contents as a result is to do a disservice both to the author and to ourselves.
Thankfully, back in my apartment, a friend forwarded the essay to me, prompting me to give it another look. This time around, instead of considering the rant the work of a madman, I made my way through the piece.
While I didn’t agree with everything, for the most part I found myself nodding my head with the points the author made. As a friend put it, the writer managed to describe, in a (relatively) coherent manner, many of the issues relating to life at Yale that we have felt in some vague sense but found ourselves unable to vocalize.
At a basic level, the author criticized the culture that has developed on campus, one in which we leave little room for emotional processing and conversations between even the closest of friends are often ”only a performance of a character learned through the culture.” Yale is a place where we feel encouraged to overcommit and overspecialize — we devote the vast majority of our nonacademic lives to extracurricular activities to the detriment of personal and interpersonal development. Structural barriers exist that, the writer argues, make us “less than human,” though they can be torn down by “sincere thought and a force of will.”
The author, I felt, was onto something. Genuine relationships at Yale have seemed hard to find; conversations on topics beyond class or extracurriculars are exceedingly rare. The cult of busyness reigns supreme— just the other day, a friend showed me his full Google calendar beaming with pride.
We don’t even take the time to process earnest reflections on our campus culture, like this week’s rant, delivered right to our inboxes. Some were too bored to read past the third paragraph, others cracked jokes about the terminology that permeated the piece. Most, though, just wrote it off as the procrastination activity of somebody on too much coffee and not enough sleep.
Clearly, there are other forums that could have proven more welcoming for the sort of conversation the author seemed to want to initiate. A panel discussion, a column in the News or, ideally, conversations with friends all could have effectively helped to bring the author’s ideas to bear on campus dialogue. But, arguably, none of these methods would have been quite as direct or as wide-reaching as the email blast.
Sure, we might like to think the author wrote the piece while on some sort of hallucinogenic. But using that as an excuse to ignore the rant altogether only reinforces one of the author’s critiques and perpetuates the lack of genuine engagement on campus.
Nick Defiesta is a senior in Berkeley College and a former city editor for the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.