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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

A Dartmouth Dream

Last night, like many sleeping people, I had a dream.

I was walking in a beautiful grove, while breathtaking purple sunlight burst through the trees and showered me with its humming, luminescent goodness (well, it WAS a dream). Somewhere in the distance the Aires were harmonizing, but strangely enough the music actually sounded good. Droplets of dew clung to the grass leaves like spoiled children unwilling to leave the nest even at the age of twenty-five. Everything was framed.

"Hey, who's that waltzing through my grove?" I heard a gruff, yet firm, yet nevertheless gruff voice bellow.

I spun around like a top, sought the location from whence the voice had sprung. "Hello?" I called out nervously, my stomach producing acid with all the fervor of a U.S. government agency producing laboratory viruses. "Who's there?"

Suddenly a figure stepped out from amongst the trees, and was immediately bathed in more of that purple light. It was a man, an old man, spidery white strands of hair curling at the edges of his otherwise bald, pinkish head, an old-fashioned brown and gray suit lining his frame, making him look like something out of a bad "Johnny Tremain" made-for-TV-movie.

"I," the man intoned with all the austerity of an Alan Greenspan inflation-rate adjustment, "am Eleazar Wheelock."

'Eleazar Wheelock!' I thought. 'The most famous dead white male of them all! And here I am in his grove! I'd better say something blue blood-esque so he doesn't get offended by my presence.'

"What do you mean, blue blood-esque?" he demanded.

"Oops," I replied. "Did I say that out loud?

"I'm sorry, Mr. Wheelock, it's just that, well, I'm about to graduate from that fine institution of higher learning you founded -- even if you did found it to Christianize Native Americans, you imperialist poof -- and I'm rather nervous these days over what to do with my highly respectable yet inordinately expensive Baccalaureate degree. What should I do?"

Wheelock rubbed his chin ruminatively with his forefinger and thumb. 'He must be thinking deep thoughts,' I observed silently.

"I am," he clipped. "I was just thinking how lucky you are to have attended that school, that Dart-thing I founded or whatever."

Although Wheelock's lackadaisical, suburban cadences threw me off a bit, his words nevertheless seemed to impart aircraft-carrier-loads of wisdom.

"And why is that, Mr. Wheelock?" I asked as graciously as my naturally sullen and querulous temperament would permit me.

"Well, although it's been a long time since I've been in Handle-over, I do remember a few nuggets about the undergraduate experience. You've probably been through seven stages of idealism, right, each one interspersed with a period of complete pessimism. You've wondered if the world is going to hell, be it an ecological, political or moral hell -- and it's usually all three, am I right? And you've wondered if you should do anything to improve the state of things. And maybe you think that's it not even possible to change the world, that such thinking belongs with your naive parents.

"And then you think, Hey, if I can't change the world, I might as well take care of my own, right? Make a good living and support a family, whatever form that family ends up taking. Suddenly you realize that a healthy income isn't a moral evil, that it might just be the only way you can provide for a better life for your kids.

"But then you think, What kind of a world am I leaving my kids? If I can't figure out what kind of values I should have, what in God's name am I going to pass on to them? Inevitably they're going to run up against this same mental block that I have. Maybe I shouldn't even bother with family, just worry about myself instead.

"And you wonder, How did I come to be so selfish? Is it this place? Should I blame my peers? And by the way, while I've been doing all this abstract thinking, everyone else seems to have figured out what they're going to do with their lives. The more immediate question becomes, How am I going to pay rent? Save for the future? Pay off my student loans?

"Am I going to leave that podium after Commencement and not even know where I'm going that afternoon, let alone for the next several years of my life?

"I'm terrified! What the hell am I going to do?"

Wheelock smiled a patient smile.

"Does that sound about right?" he asked softly.

The grove's purple light was fading, and in the distance I could now hear the sound of my alarm clock -- the dream was coming to an end. I faced my dream-companion and offered him a smile of my own.

"No," I said, then awoke to my life.