{ A milestone }

Walking into Stevenson as I was, a bit groggy from looking at a computer screen all day, I was not entirely prepared for what was waiting for me. Maybe it's a little late, but the first weekend of my second year marked the first entirely intellectual conversation at Oberlin. I had two grilled chicken breasts, a salad, a chocolate milk, and a monster appetite with me as I sat down at a circular table with three other members of the Cross Country team. Ben, the cute one, turns away from Justin, the tall hairy one, and Christine, the one with long hair and an extra X chromosome, and says something to the tune of "Well, let's ask Joe. Joe, do you know much about economics?" Effin' A, Ben, give a playa a chance to set his tray down (if you can convince the CDS staff that extra long toes count as a disability, you get a tray. Otherwise you're stuck carrying plates around to try to save the environment) before you launch into this stuff. What happened to the "Hey, how ya doin? Have a good run today?" Hell no, it's time to talk turkey.

Well, I don't know much of anything about economics, aside from a ninth grade course (approximately 6 years ago for me) and anything I read in the paper. That means anything that appears in crossword puzzles mostly, since that's the only section of the NYT that I read. I told Ben I knew almost as much as I did in ninth grade, hoping to avoid any questions that couldn't be answered with the word "supply" or "demand." Ben wanted to know about flooding money into our economic system as a means of stimulating the economy. To my own surprise, I had a (kind of) good answer. We actually talked about money-related issues for twenty minutes, with a satisfying conclusion I can't remember. I think Ben wanted to go back to the gold standard and I told him he was a putz. Like I say, real intelligent conversation.

So I was exhausted. My friend Jacob, the froggy one, stopped by, and we engaged in some real easy-on-the brain kind of conversation. I told him what I spent my day doing, which was shopping for microphones and stuff on eBay, and I revealed a little to him about a movie idea Mike and I are working on.

I only mention the heavily intellectual back-and-forth about economics because it's the first conversation I've had here that was entirely devoid of any talk that could be described as small. I've had talks that involved intellectual topics sprinkled in among fart jokes, and discussions in class led by teachers about a particular topic of study, but no stereotypical smart talk with a lot of words like "neoclassical," "zeitgeist," and... "fart" (sorry, it's what I always revert to when searching for words. You should have seen me in English class this morning. Prof. Hyman: "Joe, what are some of the fundamental advantages associated with the Shakespearean sonnet versus the Petrarchan sonnet?" Me: "Well, Shakespeare could... fart"). I assumed, coming into the brainy bouillabaisse of Oberlin that these would be the only kind of conversations I would have, mile-a-minute discourses with people possessing moderate hygiene and very few social skills ("Gaa, hope I don't run into Dieter, he'll talk my ear off about quantum mechanics again, hehe..."). Folks round here are real content to talk about the weather, chat about the last episode of LOST, complain about the weather, blush about an embarrassing sexual episode from the previous weekend, or grumble about the weather. My friend Sam is super smart when it comes to advanced mathematics, and knows TONS more than me about music, but we often have a jolly time trading (what else?) fart jokes at mealtimes. I don't have a point or anything here, just that Oberlin people are real people, and if words like meta-sense or meta-anything make you break out in hives, you can certainly join me at lunch sometime to giggle at something immature.

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{ Responses To This Entry }

What always got me is how all of the academia gets integrated into normal human conversation. For a long time, most of my friends were science majors, especially neuro majors. My dinnertime talks were about the inapplicability of fMRI studies, addiction studies...

One of the reasons I loved working at admissions is that when the interns didn't have anything to do in the summer, we would sit in our little grey room and have heated discussions. The interns were chosen to be at all ends of the Oberlin, so when we talked... it got messy.

There was one discussion on the benefits and flaws of recording music that took all afternoon, and several talks on race relations that ate up hours and hours.

I've wanted to write about conversations here for a while, but I've found it so hard to generalize. Thanks for taking a stab. :)

Posted by: Aries on September 13, 2009 8:26 AM

Yeah, like how naturally this kind of stuff comes up when you're just talking about waffle fries at lunch (this happened today at the beginning of a talk about Thomas More's Utopia). There just don't seem to be many apathetic people around. If I don't know about a particular topic, I find myself wanting to know about it, and talk to people who are knowledgeable about it. You're lucky you bought yourself some time before leaving Oberlin, Ms. Aries...

Posted by: Joe on September 13, 2009 2:59 PM

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