Coming Together: Love in Cambridge

Radicalism--Part 5ive

Radicalism as a philosophy for change will, and must, have reverberations beyond politics and economics, at the level of social interaction between people. Here then is a discursive examination of our immediate environment, the University, that bears implications for our specific everyday lives.

All radical writing should have some programmatic content, however. This article accordingly does suggest some goals for organized action. Why, after all, to echo one of its questions, is there no student center at Harvard?

Oh it's winter again and the old refrains. Widener girls in turtlenecks. Papers getting done, not done, done. The heads make well-publicized voyages into Lamont. I sing on the street, badly, "Obladi, Oblada life goes on" but the song, the smile doesn't move your face toward a possibility, no, you're walking too fast, you're hurrying even as you race through this (On to the next paragraph, faster, faster) and you're changing my song. And so, from George Harrison: "I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping."

So here we are, folks over breakfast coffee, or in the bathroom, or three days later on a trash-strewn floor, and we are still reading, we are reading the prose of someone who is interested in the prospects for a communication we'll call love, and love in Cambridge at that. If it strikes you as doubly improbable, or not the kind of prose that fits your January, you're right of course. You've always been right about matters like that, which is why you're at Harvard in the first place.

An admission for openers. I am a bit lonely here, I'm bored, and I'm no longer convinced that it's because of the cut of my jacket or the feebleness of my own mind. For what I sense to be happening in Cambridge is that nothing is happening in Cambridge. We've felt so much, tried so hard in so many ways to bring some real humanity into the academy, and we've failed. And now no one's publicly trying very hard any more. The theatres, magazines and this newspaper are largely devoted to more-of-the-same. On both sides, the professional hustler has the game covered; does the definitive headline, the hope for an unearned celebrity, have to dominate The Revolution?

Of course the happy people have always been off in the country somewhere, grooving on the land and one another; there seems little reason to me why anyone whose head is really together would stick around a place like this. Still, we are here, and we count too, but daily we compromise the best in us, daily we make the most outrageous accommodation to an institution that obviously can do little else but feed the technostructure, daily we pretend that we're not really doing this.

In a dingy room in a grim penitentiary, out of my mind, I looked over at the man next to me, a Polish embezzier from Worcester, Mass. I could see him so clearly, I could see every pore in his face, every blemish, the hairs on his nose, the incredible green-yellow enamel of the decay in his teeth, the wet glistening of his frightened eyes. I could see every hair in his head, as though each was as big as an oak tree. What a confrontation! What am I doing out here, out of my mind, with this strange mosaic-celled animal, prisoner, criminal?

I said to him with a weak grin, How are you doing, John? He said, I feel fine. Then he paused for a minute and asked, How are you doing, Doc? I was about to say in a reassuring psychological tone that I felt fine, but I could not, so I said, I feel lousy. John drew back his purple-pink lips, showed his green-yellow teeth in a sickly grin, and said, What's the matter, Doc? Why you feel lousy? I looked with my two microscopic lenses into his eyes. I could see every line, yellow spider webs, red network of veins gleaming out of me, I said, John I'm afraid of you. His eyes got bigger, then he began to laugh. I could look inside his mouth, swollen red tissues, gums, tongue, throat. I was prepared to be swallowed. Then I heard him say, Well that's funny Doc, 'cause I'm afraid of you. We were both smiling at this point, learning forward. Doc, he said, why are you afraid of me? I said, I'm afraid of you, John, because you're a mad scientist. Then our retinas locked and I slid down the tunnel of his eyes, and I could feel him walking around in my skull and we both began to laugh. And there it was, that dark moment of fear and distrust, which could have changed in a second to become hatred and terror. But we made the love connection. The flicker in the dark. Suddenly, the sun came out in the room and I felt great and I knew he did too. High Priest, by Timothy Leary

SOLUTIONS

1. Get a pair of headphones, a lot of dope. See you after a while.

2. Find someone new, if you can, and hope for the best. Or hold on tightly, more desperately, to what you've got.

3. There are no solutions. Console yourself with Wittgenstein.

4. Be a Radcliffe Sophomore reading Leonard Cohen for the first time.

5. Make something happen, something so new and beautiful, so ancient and obvious that our eyes are changed, becoming themselves, again.

HOW WE GOT HERE

The average class at Wellesley gains a ton during its freshman year. It is rumored that Dylan stole "Blowin' in the Wind" from some kids in New Jersey, that Gene McCarthy is divorcing his wife to marry a LIFE correspondent. All news we hear is bad news, or else we wouldn't have to listen.

It's no coincidence that the '67 Summer of Love was also Vietnam Summer. But the hippies are gone, the thrill of rock'n drugs is over, and SDS is now the largest fraternitysorority going. Lehman Hall at lunch is a scene in itself, if you're in need of a scene, and if you're verbal and aware or just lonely and disoriented, it's quite human to want to have a scene. Only you end up in Paine Hall, hassling impotent people and trying to figure out the real issues.

Then the Living Theatre shows up and tells you what you already know, but you can at least feel badly together, and your roommates are talking about T-groups.

A hundred people are standing in line at the Coop, buying the new Beatles record, and when one guy turns around and says, "Why don't just a few of you buy the record and go have a party in someone's room?" all one hundred make him play Paranoia.

Do you wonder why Emmett Grogan, the non-leader of the Diggers, is coming to Cambridge this month?

Is it not strange that Harvard has no real student center? That it does almost nothing to repay the community for its land, its poverty?

When did Harvard last show you a good time?

Genetically, psychologically, it is possible that we are all lovers. A university interested in its society might examine that proposition, or by the year 2001, there may be no need for a blue-ribbon faculty committee to think about the year 3000. Some random real questions: What happens to people when they are not anxious or competitive? Is schizophrenia normal in technological civilization? What kinds of films do black kids in Roxbury make? What is the influence of diet, say macrobiotics, for example, on the mind?

The university might be able to discover itself again, if we approach it as potential discoverers.

For at least two years, and probably more, isolated groups in Cambridge have talked about mechanisms to bring people together, to admit a loneliness which is perhaps central to the phenomenon of having a good brain, and then to move beyond it. If SDS were clever, if the CRIMSON and the other publications were serious, if the clubs had a sense of humor, some combined assault might be made on the Administration for a center, a place where people could come and be. Where ego-tripping would be the only taboo. Where skills and ideas would be shared among friends. Where a minor message begins. I gather some fellows around me toward evening:

We address each other as "gentleman." They put their feet up on my table. And say: things will improve. And I don't ask when.  Bertolt Brecht

It is cold this winter, and WARMTH has always seemed too sappy to be attractive, and H-R X is underground. The people who are making it are going on, making it, and the others flounder, as people will. In the corner, an old man speaks of Bloomsbury, and how it changed England, if only for a moment, and a graduate speaks fondly of Harvard, not knowing what we mean, and a girl who isn't too pretty writes a cliched poem about a boy who's not too handsome.

My kingdom of love shall expand. I have loved my body more than anything else. That is why I am identified with and limited by it. With the love that I had given to the body, I will love all those who love me. With the expanded love of those who love me, I will love those who are mine. With the love for myself and the love for my own, I will love those who are strangers. I will use all my love to love those who do not love me, as well as those who love me. I will bathe all souls in my unselfish love. In the sea of my love, my family members, my countrymen, all nations, and all beings will swim. All creation, all the myriads of tiny living things, will dance on the waves of my love.  Paramahansa Yogananda

It is almost too late to ask it, but those who feel this urgency must act, unashamed and soon. For we are back in the 1950's again, and will have tan shoes, pink shoelaces, and sockhop love if we indulge our apathy. "Humanity is estranged from its authentic possibilities," R.D. Laing has written. Yes. But it may not be too late to find the ones with whom we will face the night