Monday, May 28, 2012

The Japhies of the World

I've been a college student, of some capacity, since the fall of 2005. A lot stays the same on a college campus over seven years, even though many of the faces change. I remember watching films about college while growing up like Dead Poet's Society and Good Will Hunting, films that gave me the impression of an experience of being able to stand on my own two feet of intelligence.  While I feel like I was both challenged and stimulated (in many ways), I also feel that the student culture at colleges and universities in America, is determination to finish, as quickly as possible on the path of least resistance.

I regret that while I earned my bachelors degree, I worked three par-time jobs, 52 hours a week. My time spent in class and studying was spent pinpointing exactly what a professor wanted and calculating the variables in an equation that would end in A and sometimes B. While a talent in itself, my practice is to a true liberal education as Voltron is to Transformers. I finished in the "normal" four years, and I too, did my best to avoid detours along the way. I was churned out a "college grad" - a pound of hamburger pressed into neat patties.

Where am I go with this? Well, I'm currently reading Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, and I came across a line that gave me a reality check. Ever college and university has a few of these students. Students who don't seem to fit into the student culture of "get me done and get me a job." These students have been on campus for what seems like decades and are usually taking the bare minimal of classes. While jeered as under-achieving bums, were I to do it again, I would take the time to be the "real man" appearing on the scene. 
Japhy and I were kind of outlandish-looking on the campus in our old clothes in fact Japhy was considered an eccentric around the campus, which is the usual thing for campuses and college people to think whenever a real man appears on the scene—colleges being nothing but grooming schools for the middleclass non-identity which usually finds its perfect expression on the outskirts of the campus in rows of well-to-do houses with lawns and television sets in each living room with everybody looking at the same thing and thinking the same thing at the same time while the Japhies of the world go prowling in the wilderness to hear the voice crying in the wilderness, to find the ecstasy of the stars, to find the dark mysterious secret of the origin of faceless wonderless crapulous civilization. “All these people,” said Japhy, “ they all got white-tiled toilets and take big dirty craps like bears in the mountains, but it’s all washed away to convenient supervised sewers and nobody thinks of crap any more or realizes that their origin is shit and civet and scum of the sea. They spend all day washing their hands with creamy soaps they secretly wanta eat in the bathroom.” He had a million ideas, he had ’em all.   
-Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums 

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