In a small office on the third floor of the Barker Center, students and a few professors congregate to ponder Christianity, Islam, Taosim, and every religion and spiritual practice in between. This is the headquarters for undergraduates studying religion at Harvard, where the approach is comparative and the range of interests is vast.
It was easy to get in then. No personal essays required, just a series of entrance examinations. 73 percent of applicants were admitted. Admittedly, there are lots of reasons to discount these numbers. The exams required special preparation available only at a few elite prep schools. There was no Common App, no female students, and only 937 people applied.
Please sit down. We’re passing out booklets now. You should have a question sheet and two booklets. Raise your hand if you—sorry about that James, there you go. You’ll have 53 minutes; there are four sections. We’ve included a suggested time for each section. I’ll also keep track of how much time is left on the board. And...begin.
The roof sits so low you expect Bilbo Baggins to be inside, surrounded by a band of drunken dwarves. A fading Budweiser sign rises above the roof. In this snug brick building fifteen minutes from campus, a bearded bartender shook, stirred, then poured. He slid a glowing-red glass towards me, filled to the brim with one of the best cocktails I’ve tasted.