Friday, December 13, 2013


"When primal scream happened last year, I wrote about it. I said it was stupid and basically meaningless, which I thought was a good thing at a place like Harvard, where everything is smart and driven by meaning. My take on primal scream really hasn’t changed. Streaking around the Yard with my classmates this year, I felt just as bare and barely human as I did before. But there was one aspect that was different: an odd feeling that I was not among the pack of prestigious primates, but that they were among me."

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A DASH OF INSANITY


Sometimes, it takes a bunch of penises to let you know life is going by. But it takes a little more to let you know that you don’t have to catch up to it (or them)—not yet.

When primal scream happened last year, I wrote about it. I said it was stupid and basically meaningless, which I thought was a good thing at a place like Harvard, where everything is smart and driven by meaning. My take on primal scream really hasn’t changed. Streaking around the Yard with my classmates this year, I felt just as bare and barely human as I did before. But there was one aspect that was different: an odd feeling that I was not among the pack of prestigious primates, but that they were among me.

Let me explain. I did primal scream the first time at the end of my first semester here. After adjusting to all the newness of college and working hard, I felt like it would be relieving to brave the cold completely nude, in the middle of the Yard. Thankfully, I found out about this thing called “primal scream,” which was scheduled for the very same night. Nervous and excited, I ran around and stripped down with all my new classmates; it was a pretty perfect, albeit surprising, end to the semester.

But this year I had a final the next day and the day after. By the time I stopped studying that night, I barely had time to disrobe and walk all the way from my house to get there. The cheering, the band, the Yard full of a thousand butts—it all was the same as before. But the feeling was a little different. As I went around, there was a sense that I wasn’t running, but just going along with the pack. The run, the adrenaline, the feeling: it was all familiar. But this time, it was somewhat dulled, almost less personal. I felt like I wasn’t doing primal scream—I felt like I was just a part of it.

It’s not just primal scream either. Coming back to Harvard, after being here for a year, felt similar in a lot of ways. It’s hard to know what it is exactly, but new things become more routine. You hang out with your close friends, rather than meeting many others. Classes are still interesting, but in a more manageable and somewhat repetitive way. “The people” you came here to meet become wrapped together in your mind into a group of driven, fame or finance hungry, stressful acquaintances. If you’re optimistic, they’re cool, fame or finance hungry, stressful acquaintances. And your willingness to explore new areas, whether academic, geographic, or otherwise, is somewhat dulled.

Based on speeches and comments by administrators, I’ve always felt like I should be pushing the envelope; that every time I hang out with my purposefully diverse group of friends, I should have my tongue hanging out with amazement when hearing their ideas and stories, and then use that tongue to lap up as many of those ideas as I can. But this year I really don’t feel like I’m doing all that: I haven’t licked my friends even once. I mostly focus on about two things on campus, and those happen to be classes. I just don’t feel like I’m as much of an active part of Harvard as I was when I was a freshman. It feels more like I’m just flowing along, without the same nervousness and excitement as before. I guess, even an almost 400-year-old place can grow old on you.

But, although it may seem like a bad feeling, I think there’s a reason why I don’t push myself the same way: the routine is pretty good. I don’t appreciate “the people” at Harvard as much as I appreciate the people who are my friends. I don’t like exploring as much as I like exploring what I like. For me, “the innovative” has become the daily. The “amazing” is predictable. And although it may have lost that great new shine after a year or so, the normal life here is something that is both rewarding and enjoyable, even if it’s not as exciting. I’m sure I'll get back to feeling active and searching for something new, but I’m enjoying my passivity for as long as it will have me.

It’s the same with primal scream. The other night, my friends and classmates were there to hold my stuff and cheer me on. I tripped over naked people and made faces at people with cameras. I felt the warmth of the moment and the bitter, nipple-shrinking cold of the walk back to my room. And, again, I got the great feeling of seeing my school come together for something stupid, with a hint of nostalgia to top it off this time.

Sure, this wasn’t my first primal scream. It didn’t have the same significance for me as last year’s. In fact, by the end of this year’s run (partly because it’s a “lap”), I felt like I was basically in the same place I had started.

But, and there’s always a but(t) with these things, it felt good just to go along for the ride, all the same.

Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House.

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