When Mark J. Chiusano '12 first asked me to riff for 600 to 800 words on “metempsychosis,” I first had to restrain myself from asking what “metempsychosis” meant, or if it was even a real word. Mark is an English concentrator, and he loves to rub it in your face whenever he can. So I just smiled and nodded, because I refuse to give that prick the satisfaction of knowing something that I don’t. My second reaction was to think: what the hell kind of hoity-toity nonsense is this? An entire essay on one word? This was not the Fifteen Minutes that I used to write for. One of our editors last year would scuttle story ideas with a term borrowed from the movie industry—“too high concept.” It was a good distillation of the difference between us and, say, the rest of The Crimson. God forbid we looked like we were actually trying.
I looked the word up on Dictionary.com and found that “metempsychosis” is just a fancy word for reincarnation. Well, I remember when Mark and Elyssa A.L. Spitzer ’12 first presented this notion of metempsychosisifying FM from a tabloid into a slick, full-color glossy magazine printed in China, of all places. I laughed, mostly at the thought of some mouth-breathing Crimson business comper telling our press operators that a part of their jobs had been shipped overseas. I also worried about the size of the task—they were proposing a comprehensive makeover. And yet here you are, reading this piece on a glossy page, assuming that the Chinese government hasn’t decided to ban all written words between submission and press time.
I’ve often heard the complaint that too many student publications forget that they are, at the end of the day, still student publications. And I’m tempted to agree every time I read an editorial on the Libya situation or flip through four pages of black-and-white photographs of a VES concentrator’s feet. But these complaints seem to be part of a larger uneasiness surrounding self-importance and ambition. Delusions of grandeur are a cardinal sin at Harvard. The old FM was able to dodge those questions by being so explicitly and shamelessly undergrad. The tab format, the paper version FM had used, offered a large degree of freedom, and we thought nothing of running long pieces on thought-provoking cover stories right next to photos of people sloppily making out at the Spee.
So it makes sense that when I heard the magazine was going glossy, my excitement had a heavy lining of indignation. It’s inevitable when you make someone, at the ripe old age of 22, feel utterly irrelevant, which is how I felt when they said that they were no longer doing it our way. The mistaken assumption is that we own any of this—our dorm rooms, the chairs in the Yard, the student life magazines that take up large chunks of our time each week and even larger chunks of our GPAs. That assumption is behind some big mistakes. I should stop painting a mural on my bedroom wall and throwing chocolate milk at the foreign tourists who insist on sitting in those chairs, and I really shouldn’t have a knee-jerk reaction when the current crop of Crimson leaders decides to take our beloved rag and make it somewhat respectable.
According to my sources, this latest reincarnation of the magazine will place a heavier emphasis on long-form content accompanied by crisper, more innovative design and photography. Things will change—things have to change—because we’re in college and we’re young and this is just how it works. And in a month, I will graduate, and I will fully accept that I’ve only been passing through here all along.