On Wednesday, I went to a discussion led by a St. Olaf professor (at Carleton) (see, we do like them—we even postponed our annual snowball fight!) about the importance of experiential knowledge for decision-making in a deliberative democracy. The talk was about the idea that emotions play a role in our moral decision making, and, to come to conclusions as a democracy about moral issues, we need experiential, emotional knowledge, not just cold rationality. Two out of three of my current professors were there. My reading assigned for Friday by my third professor was about Islamic law, and contained this quote, “Does rational thinking, on its own, accomplish the job? Or, to put it differently, is rational thinking---even in its best forms—sufficient for Muslims to know precisely how to conduct themselves in their religious and worldly affairs?”
I really really like structure. The school that came closest to vying for my affections after beloved Carleton* is so structured that in four years, you choose one class. This is my first trimester where I’m not filling three different kinds of graduation requirements with my three classes and I worried during registration that now I would sort of start randomly milling around, picking up assorted, unrelated knowledge, sort of like a cow on a patch of rather pleasant and interesting grass. Not so.
My friend Joel, who leads The Search, always manages to explain prevalent historical ideals by discussing the occurrence of certain words or phrases in books of a certain period. I am wholly convinced that if you were to perform a giant word count of Carleton conversations, you would come up with abnormal frequencies for “cold” “work” “sorry” “thank you” “narwhals” and “unicorns.” The first two are very stereotypical, the second two completely encompass general community values (and respond to the first two), and the last two just come up a lot. Evidentiary support: The shirts for Lenny Dee, our sketch comedy group, say “Unicorns are the narwhals of the land.” The signs for our Student Workers of the Month in the dining hall featured said workers atop unicorns. In the past year, I have seen two narwhal costumes on two separate occasions.
Narwhals have been discussed twice in my Modern Philosophy class, and we talked about the possible problem of the “invisible pink unicorn” last week. Unicorns, as such, have been mentioned three times by my logic professor and appeared in the form of my homework (in the textbook, mind you) for this week, as a possibly horned, possibly mythic creature named Charlie. So I’m basically just left waiting for the day my Intro to Islam prof explains some aspect of Muslim religious thought and/or legal theory (I'm not picky) with the analog of a galloping, horned horse or ridiculous sea creature.
And I know I mentioned dragons (if you caught that) (no, don’t, they breathe fire) in my title, so let me just mention that you can, in fact, rent out fireplaces in the lounges of dorms. A definite high point on the beast of last week (midterms!) was a cozy, firelit, Mary Poppins-y early evening with friends.
*I have not equated the name of this esteemed institution with Psych until right. Now.