Green Key Exposed!

by Dan Galemba | 5/18/01 5:00am

We often confuse the meaning of Green Key weekend; after all, it's pretty easy to get confused if you're carrying around a water bottle full of vodka for 72 consecutive hours. As with Homecoming and Winter Carnival, Green Key has predominantly become an official excuse for marinating all that pesky knowledge that has accumulated over the course of the term in alcohol.

But, as with Homecoming and Winter Carnival, there is much more to Green Key than anyone ever really acknowledges. Green Key weekend is yet another symbol of the traditions in which Dartmouth is steeped, a symbol of what Dartmouth is all about. It is that time of the term when all of the petty squabbles and minutia of everyday life melt away as we once again are reminded of the tradition, the history, the 232-year-old aura surrounding this college, a college that sprung up in the middle of nowhere as a beacon of the power of education. Green Key is a symbol of Dartmouth because, while what hits the eye is the superficial chaos, underneath is a foundation of tradition, substance that is almost too powerful to truly comprehend.

The meaning of tradition, of the essence of Dartmouth, hit me with its full force when I made a recent trip up to College Park. It's rather upsetting to see how many people don't even know what College Park is, let alone what's there and why it matters. Most people have only been in the College Park vicinity for the pre-DOC trip festivities on the Bema, for an astronomy class at the observatory or getting lost walking out of Wilder. But I highly recommend you go (especially at night, which gives it a little bit of an eerie, ethereal feeling) because it is perhaps the only untainted way in which you can cut through the everyday superficialities routinely magnified into cataclysmic, earth-shattering tragedies which cloud the Dartmouth experience in order to get closer to Dartmouth's underlying essence.

As a geography lesson, the central point of College Park is the Lone Pine (or at least what's left of it). The Lone Pine marks the highest point on the Dartmouth campus; it overlooks this quaint New Hampshire college, determined to survive and remind everyone who graces the campus of its presence, its toughness, its never-say-die spirit, of the tradition and history from whence it gains life. Nearby is Bartlett Tower, a monument to the feelings that students have had for this place. So upset by the demise of the Lone Pine, students, using nothing more than randomly-shaped rocks, elbow grease and an unimaginably profound love for Dartmouth erected a symbol of their devotion to and appreciation of "the old mother." On the other side of the Lone Pine, Robert Frost perpetually sits in the peaceful, beautiful New Hampshire woods, inspired by Dartmouth's surroundings to write so much of his poetry, poetry which in part symbolizes an awe and appreciation with which few of us take the time to come to terms.

It's hard to separate ourselves from the day-to-day trials and tribulations of being Dartmouth students: homework, red tape, the infinite little frustrations, the constant clamoring for change, all of the imperfections we subjectively perceive. It's almost impossible to gain any sort of broader perspective over Dartmouth as a whole, a perspective not immediately fraught with our own personal biases about what we want to see happen to this place. We're all human; thus, we're all opinion Nazis, thinking we're the only people with problems in the world and that our problems trump everyone else's. Of course, this is the recipe for the conflict out of which we seem to be unable to break free: with everyone naturally selfish and refusing to understand or care about where others are coming from, frustrations and hostilities continually mount. These are the troubles of everyday life at Dartmouth.

But underneath lies so much more, something that makes Dartmouth special; with all the conflicts over how the school should progress, few take the time to realize what persists unchanged. The "Dartmouth mystique" is intangible but it can be felt, if not on campus proper then at least at College Park; all it requires is that you remove yourself from the petty squabbles so easy to find in campus discourse. At the top of the hill by the Lone Pine, one can gain perspective on Dartmouth; one can literally and metaphorically rise above everyday trivialities and look down on the campus from a point at which Dartmouth's entire history can be felt. It is a feeling many of us first experienced when we were introduced to Dartmouth via the DOC trips, and it is a feeling that I can now best achieve by going up the hill and realizing how much more there is to the Dartmouth experience than just bickering over housing, Foreign Study Programs, social options and the prices at Topside. We are all inextricably connected in this idea that is Dartmouth, and my writings cannot do justice to its power.

The Lone Pine rises above us while representing all the powerful currents carrying Dartmouth along underneath us. There is so much more to this school than the trivialities into which we invest all our energy, and it's a shame that in speeding along so fast trying to fix all these perceived problems, we ignore what's always been and will always continue to be at the heart of Dartmouth. Fortunately, though, we have Green Key, one of those rare times when the aura surrounding the Dartmouth experience moves down from the hill to engulf all of campus, if we let it. It's a chance to step back and gain perspective on the common experience of which we're all a part. This is our Dartmouth. It is endowed with tremendous natural and historical gifts. Hopefully we can all use Green Key weekend as a tool to cut through the layers upon layers of superficiality to reach the tradition and substance underlying the entire experience.

Arguably Robert Frost's most famous poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," concludes: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep." We have to keep progressing, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take the time every now and then to stop, put down the burden of progress, gather our senses and reach a deeper appreciation of Dartmouth. Ironically, we all have miles to go just to reach a point at which we can stay put and take time to gather perspective. Green Key would be well spent pursuing such an endeavor.