Standing on Vikings’ shoulders

Steve Nordin

Trivia was awesome, to begin with.
While sleep deprivation and wallowing in garbage at the “We Went Greek Because Kappa Kappa Awesome Was Too Selective” team’s Trivia table probably cost me some sophistication points, it was a great time. I definitely plan on modifying that memory in my later years and using it in my mandatory nostalgic “college is the best time of your life” talk with future young folk.
I started thinking about “the good ol’ college days” we’re living – especially whether they are spent focusing on graduating and moving on to the happy days of a dead-end office job and piling graduate school debt.
The haze of time will hopefully wash over the smell of dropped Toppers and whatever I stepped in on my way to the showers. I will gleefully forget the sad attempts at facial hair made by myself and my peers.
Compare these trivialities to aged photographs of serious undergraduates in ties and jackets on their way to class found in yearbooks and on fraternity house walls. Are their “fond years” at Lawrence, recited at every reunion, the same as mine? Certainly not. I think there is definitely a difference in “school spirit” between those days and now.
I worked at Reunion Weekend this past summer and the two ideas most commonly expressed by alumni were “where is the nearest liquor mart?” and how great Lawrence was “back in the day.” Every arriving alumnus and alumna would hug like old friends then talk of mutual acquaintances and that crazy guy everyone knew.
Can I see myself hugging that classmate with the prodigious neck beard and laughing about a particular Trivia team name when I am old and grey? Not really. I never talked to him anyhow, and frankly, his facial hair is both weird and intimidating to a guy like me.
I feel that my “individualized” education makes the whole collegiate experience revolve around my activities, my friends and my classes. It isolates me from the greater story of Lawrence and its history, with no substantive bond to those who came before me and will come after.
Do not interpret this as a call for huge lecture classes and standardized tests so we can later mutually lament their failings at the VR. The question of the individual in an established history is complex and I will duly ignore many aspects of the discussion. Feel free to fill in the gaps.
Lawrence has a storied past – rich in tradition. You only need dig a bit to discover it.
For example, we used to send a burning raft down the Fox River in order to celebrate Homecoming. While I am sure there must be some regulations now against such nautical pyromania and such an endeavor would likely cause a chemical fire on the Fox should we attempt to revive it, you have to admit it is a rather nifty concept.
What bastions of tradition do we still see at Lawrence? The matriculation handshake – barring my porcine influenza-ridden Class of 2013 – class colors, Trivia, Greek Life, the Viking Room, graduation?
The university is reviving the President’s Winter Carnival, which I commend; I hope that many Lawrentians participate. However, much of what was is no longer. One needs only to speak about the Warch Campus Center with certain stodgy upperclassmen to prompt a lengthy tirade against the architectural interloper and veneration of the sacred “Old Downer.”
To be frank, from what I understand of the quality of Old Downer food, Andrew’s Commons looks like a four-star restaurant applauded by every animal, consumer and vegetable rights group in existence. Despite this improvement, their “Lawrence Difference” is now irrevocably different than my own.
Gustave Flaubert once said, “Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times.”
My personal “bright college years” are impugned through my unawareness of those that came before. Our individual educations will be enhanced by visiting the archives, chatting with the alumni and alumnae of our founding institutions and enduring the seniors’ reactionary tales.
After all, there is likely truth and beauty in that spilled cup of garlic sauce on your carpet. Just give it time to mature, and it will likely become a fond memory of our youth and collegiate happiness.