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Volume 41. No. 2.
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 47 Things Every Sagehen Should Do
Before Graduating
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
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Editor: Mark Wood
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Letter from the Editor: 
Of Time and Passion

Whenever I find myself wishing that time would slow down, I remind myself of a character in Albert Camus’ La Peste who reflects on the best way to appreciate every moment of life. Full, undistracted awareness of each passing moment, he decides, requires boredom. Therefore, the best way to appreciate life to the fullest is to sit in a doctor’s office for hours on end with no intention of ever going inside.

It’s a truism, of course, that the times we most want to cling to are the most fleeting. But time in itself is not so precious that most of us would choose to slow it down by courting boredom or pain.

What started me thinking about all this is the concept of “flow,” which Claremont Graduate University Professor of Psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (if you must try to pronounce it, it’s something like “chick-sent-me-high”) defines as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.”

We’ve all experienced it—that period of total absorption when time ceases to exist. At the end, there’s a kind of awakening, followed by a mystified (or even horrified) glance at the clock. It is, Csikszentmihalyi says, an experience that seems to be common the world over, described in more or less the same way by artists and factory-workers, by American teenagers and Chinese octogenarians.

For Csikszentmihalyi, it seems almost synonymous with happiness—or, at least, with our highest definition of happiness. People are most intensely happy, he says, not when they’re at rest or satisfied or entertained, but when they have something to do that deeply grips their interest, something that makes the rest of the world go away. “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile,” he says.

He likes the word “flow.” I like the word “passion.” It is, I think, what college is all about. Finding your passion—that worthwhile thing that will stretch you to your limits. It gets confused with other important things, of course, like making money and gaining prestige and being secure and building relationships, but at heart, we’re all looking for a fulcrum for all those other things—a single, unifying passion.

It’s not an easy thing to find, but we know it when we feel it, don’t we? If it doesn’t sometimes border on the obsessive, it isn’t passion. If it doesn’t merit sacrifice, it isn’t passion. If it doesn’t occasionally suppress hunger or negate sleepiness, it isn’t passion. If it doesn’t, with some frequency, carry you outside the flow of time, it isn’t passion.

If the greatest measure of true happiness is the passion you feel for what you do, then this magazine is about some very happy people. Some fought for their passion against all odds; others searched until it found them; some are guilty of serial passions.

Inspiring people to value their passions is, I believe, something Pomona does well. As editor of this magazine, I am constantly amazed by the number of compelling stories competing for this space. That’s because so many Pomona alumni do such interesting things with their lives—and are so passionate about what they do.
—Mark Wood

Less Than 47 Things to Do

I would have been hard pressed to come up with “47 Things Every Sagehen Should Do Before Leaving Pomona” back in the late 1950s when I was a student. Although some of the things such as No. 1 (“Watch the Sun Set at Joshua Tree National Park”) were there, I counted 16 things that didn’t exist, such as No. 4 (“Choose a Favorite Work of Art at the Getty Center”) and No. 28 (“Check Out a Presidential Library—or Two.”) Others had not yet become noteworthy, such as No. 39 (“See the Watts Towers”), and still others may have existed in a different form. For instance, a trip of some distance from Claremont would have been required for No. 24 (“Taste Five Different Ethnic Cuisines”). No. 47 (“Don’t Forget Your Own Backyard: The Claremont Village”) was the location of the pharmacy, grocery store, banks, a couple of eating places and a few other shops, a place you mostly went for necessities.

However, what prompted this letter was No. 31 (“Climb Mount Baldy.”) The article places Baldy in the San Bernardino Mountains which were 30 miles to the east when I was a student. Not only must the San Andreas fault have been exceedingly active since I moved from Claremont 43 years ago, but it must be regressing since I learned in Dr. Shelton’s (John Sewall Shelton ’35) geology lab that the San Andreas is a right lateral fault. Baldy which is on its west side should be moving farther away from the San Bernardino Mountains on the east side, not into them.

All in all, I enjoyed the 47 things to do, as well as the other articles and items in the magazine.
—Donald Aplin ’59
Rock Hill, SC

Editor’s Note: Don’t worry. Mount Baldy hasn’t moved. It’s still in the San Gabriel Mountains, and we’re working on our map-reading skills.

Right-Wing Grievances
I fear that Pomona Forum is devolving into a grievance forum for right-wing alumni. The Fall 2004 PCM alone features alumni blaming the failures of the national space program on the decline of “a society undergirded by the Judeo-Christian ethic”; throwing their hands up in horror at non-existent “coed roommates”; and decrying the absence of “political diversity,” which I take to be a euphemism for the promotion of right-wing propaganda on campus.
Let me just say this: As an undergraduate, although I would have considered myself politically “liberal,” I often fretted and whined about what I perceived as a homogeneity of thought among students and a reductive, insincere race/class/gender-based notion of “diversity” propagated by the institution in general. But that was a pre-Bush, pre–9/11 world, when I had the luxury of living in a rarefied community where rights of individual expression and behavior were respected, and—more astonishingly—the life of the intellect was actually valued. Except for a few urban oases, it is not so out in the “real world.”

That Pomona and other national colleges are “liberal” means simply that they respect individual rights, grasp the importance of community, cultivate the life of the mind and spirit as well as the pursuit of material wealth, and value reasoned discourse and debate over the inculcation of civic and religious dogma. Insofar as “conservatism” means cheerleading for the ministers of an increasingly authoritarian state, celebrating war and condoning the condemnation and suppression of selected undesirable minority groups, it has no place on this or any other campus. I would say the same thing if left-wing brands of autocracy and ideological hegemony held sway in our society. But fortunately—despite the fantasies of some of our alumni—that is not the case.
—Brian Booker ’97
New York, NY

President Blaisdell
It was a thrill to see the portrait gallery of presidents in the Fall 2004 PCM. During my four years, I was lucky to know and work with Presidents Edmunds and Lyon. But of special interest was the painting of President James Blaisdell. He was president during my parents’ years at Pomona—and performed their wedding ceremony in 1922. In 1948, I approached him with a request to perform our wedding ceremony. He willingly agreed but insisted that, due to his age (90-plus, I believe), we must have a stand-by minister there. We did—he wasn’t needed. To make the story even better: When President Blaisdell and his wife were in the car to be driven home, there was a small explosion! Friends had booby-trapped the car thinking it was the one Jake and I would use for our “get-away.” He thought it was wonderful!
—Rhea Leishman Houck ’44
McKinleyville, CA

Cryptic Clues
I was surprised by the cryptic crossword—loved it but for the fact that it was missing a clue for 39 down, and the answer to 34 down had to be misspelled to get the “acrosses” to work. Figure I was meant to find something; I did. If you add up the number of letters in all words affected (34D, 39D, 70A and 75A) and then add to these the position in the alphabet of the two letters swapped in ‘hydration’ (i=9, o=15), you get 47.
—Roger Wood ’85
Menlo Park, CA

Editor’s Note: Yikes. That’s one error for me as grid-maker and one for my partner in crime, Lynne Zold, as clue-master. It’s comforting, however, to know that in a deconstructionist world, even a couple of silly mistakes can be transformed into an ingenious plot. So I’ll call your 47 and raise you another: Did anyone notice that the title on the cover of the Fall 2004 PCM (“47 Things Every Sagehen Should Do Before Leaving Pomona”) happens to contain exactly 47 characters?

The Student Life Vanishes
Seeing the Wig-Elgin-Vroman family tree reminded me of an incident from my time at Pomona which some readers may enjoy. It reveals some fairly interesting but largely unknown history of The Student Life and also links two elements of keen student interest in that era: Vietnam and Batman.

In the 1965–66 school year, The Student Life unexpectedly (at least to most of us on campus) vanished. A number of students who would have formed the newspaper’s staff got together with students from the other college newspapers to establish The Collegian, persuading the Pomona Student Council to reallocate the money that would have gone toward publication of The Student Life. A number of Pomona students took this amiss, including some who had planned to help staff The Student Life and others who simply objected to the clandestine dissolution of “the oldest college newspaper west of the Mississippi.”

Under the leadership of Carl Olson ’66, a small staff of volunteers used office space in the student union and a mimeograph machine located there to publish and distribute a newsletter called the SL (abbreviation for Student Life). Paper and some other supplies were paid for with student donations, including money from the KIE fraternity.

At one point in the spring semester, The Collegian announced a student poetry contest. This seemed the perfect opportunity for a practical joke, so the small SL staff sat around and dreamed up an anti-war poem. Since Bob Vroman ’67 was conveniently on semester abroad, it was submitted in his name—something to which he took considerable exception upon learning of the deception. I don’t have a copy of the poem in question, which won third place in the contest, but I do remember my contribution: “Holy Cao Ky! Who greased the grapevine of civilization?”
—Charles J. “Charlie” Jefferson ’67
Seaside, OR

Editor’s Note: We found the following poem, titled “Struggle, Agony—Zop, Pow!!!” and, indeed, attributed to Bob Vroman, in the May 13, 1966, edition of The Collegian:

Auugh shrieks Batman,
As the world writhes in agony.
Holy Cao Ky groans the Boy Wonder moodily.
Who greased the grapevine of the civilization-jungle?
Good thinking is the key to clean living.
We celebrate the Bat-Code in our daily expurgation!

We welcome letters from alumni and friends. Letters may be edited for length, style and clarity. For a full list of magazine policies concerning letters to the editor, see PCM Online.
 

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by Pomona College
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