Ed Driscoll

“We Don’t Need Soap! We Have Each ­Other!”

Betsy Newmark describes the joys of a higher education at enlightened, progressive, 21st century Stanford:

The New York Times has a special section on college education and features essays from undergraduates about what learned at their colleges. Here is the experience described by the Stanford student.

When most people consider the hoity-toity, palm-treed paradise of Stanford, naked bread-baking and organic gardening don’t exactly come to mind. After two years of suffocating dorm life, I relinquished the luxuries of sanity and meat to live in Synergy, the Stanford commune famous for midnight flour fights and for making all of its food from local, sustainable scratch — sometimes in the nude. The self-proclaimed “mother of alternative lifestyles,” this on-campus house of some 60 upperclassmen was created in the ’70s for students interested in grass-roots environmentalism.

My initiation had come at Beltane, the pagan fertility festival held every spring on the lawn, complete with a 30-foot wooden maypole and musical performances. How the ancient practice of Celtic druids driving their cattle through fire morphed into “sacrificing” Stanford’s naked virgins still baffles me. The ceremony began with a crowd of more than 100, roughly half of whom were naked, throwing beet juice at one another and frolicking in circles around three virgins (self-elected, unverified, any gender), whom they tightly crisscrossed in ribbons around the maypole. The virgins then broke through the ribbons and ran free, symbolizing their liberating deflowering.

Too insecure and cold to part with my underwear, I enthusiastically distributed body paint and rainbow-colored condoms. Hours later, a purply gang of 15 or so paraded upstairs and crammed themselves into two showers, leaving behind a pink, nutritious trail.

“Is there any soap?”

“We don’t need soap! We have each ­other!”

Now that is clearly the high-quality education that their parents scrimped and sacrificed in order to send their precious progeny to a prestigious university. And then they can attain the ultimate in humanity when they must deal with an ant infestation.

But of all the bizarreness I’ve ever witnessed, none has come to parallel the morning I walked downstairs to the kitchen and discovered a housemate leaning down to the counter and carefully cooing and negotiating with a thick, neat line of ants. He was expressing his beautiful human need to not want to accidentally eat them with his vegan cheese.

This was the culmination of 30-plus e-mail messages debating whether it was ethical to kill the ants overtaking our kitchen. The issue was brought to consensus, and we agreed to explore non-life-ending solutions, since death by pesticide was fist-blocked by a small contingent. Clearly, the only answer was to connect with the ants on a karmic level and express our utmost respect for them in whispered song.

I wonder if Stanford ants respond to the karmic energy being sent their way.

As one of the readers at Fark (where I found Betsy’s post) reminds us via his exceptional taste in links, “Starting From Zero” — and not progressing much beyond it — is a forty year old Bay Area tradition. Too bad the Gipper isn’t around to update the setting of his classic jape.

Related: As Hannah Arendt once wrote, every generation, Western civilization is invaded by hordes of barbarians; we call them children. And they’re bad for the environment, too, comedienne Traci Skene finds herself being hectored. “Why not just institute the Cash For Kids Program and get it over with?”