Midterms strike me as a season in the world of fashion. The savvy among us — those who picked out the best of this season’s clothing back when it was paraded around Paris or Milan — have long ago anticipated these tests, have worked accordingly and are well-prepared. But the majority of us, who have an adequate, if blasé, wardrobe — what we’ve learned in the past — make only slight changes, adding a couple of items here and there.
There’s also the same tension as when people scramble to question whether their outfits look decent; now they question whether or not their proof or reading is sound. They are asking the wrong question. The question we ought to be asking ourselves is whether or not we should put on any clothes at all.
If clothing is study and acquired knowledge, then nakedness seems to be procrastination and the exercise of raw thought, with no end or purpose in mind. Yalies enjoy being naked, whatever the occasion, but we detest procrastination. Maybe it’s because we fear procrastination might leave us strutting into the test room with the absurd pomp of Hans Christian Andersen’s naked emperor.
But procrastination is not bad at all. It’s a time for fun, for seemingly meaningless enjoyment, for putting clothes on a Barbie or Ken and not ourselves. Yet it is a useful enterprise; dressing a Barbie again and again is one reason why girls actually dress better than guys later in life. That is to say, we ought to recognize how our procrastination — our incessant desire to pop on Facebook, our urge to engage in random conversation and even our yearning to just sit still and do nothing — can help us when we buckle down and try to get things done.
Take this column, for example. Reading Aristotle’s “Politics” brought to mind a delightful scene in “Toy Story 3” involving Barbie’s political philosophy; YouTube was visited, my intellectual clothes went off and the procrastination began. Watching Barbie articulate how “authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not the threat of force” led to a heated back-and-forth on household dynamics between a friend and I, which in turn gave way to random online browsing of the Barbie collection. An e-mail came reminding me that I was writing for the News, and so the Barbie Jeep of my thought arrived at the following destination: Use Barbie to write about procrastination in the News.
We don’t, however, need New Yorker articles, plastic dolls or philosophy to understand procrastination. Anyone who has a midterm or paper due soon knows their mind needs to be dressed spiffily for the occasion — and they know the temptation to let it streak naked beforehand. They should submit to the temptation more often. We can understand our bodies no better than when we are naked; our procrastination brings our wardrobe of ideas to the fore, so that when we do eventually dress, we will make connections and assemble tops-and-bottoms together in ways we had not thought of before. Sometimes, it is when the mind is most unburdened that it is free to loft, discover and create.
That is not to say we ought to simply hibernate while the season passes. Not only is this not possible — a new fashion season is always a Vogue away, and likewise, a midterm or paper is always a lecture or two away — but this is dangerous. If we go too long without clothes, without serious thought and attention to what we ought to be doing, then we may well forget how to even go about dressing or studying. And that is simply a silly proposition, one that we may entertain when procrastinating and at no other time.
Wear clothes — study, even panic a tad, as midterms arrive — but don’t sell out wholly to that devil decorated in Prada. Don’t forget that you can be naked, you can procrastinate — you can leave this piece and go do whatever you please.
James Lu is a freshman in Silliman College.