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
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.
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.
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
—Brian Booker ’97
New York, NY
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
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
—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
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
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
—Charles J. “Charlie” Jefferson ’67
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!
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