“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more: it is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing” (Macbeth, 5.5).
It may have been reckless, over the past couple of years, to use this column as a public diary. Through the Orient, I’ve grappled with my body image, my gender identity and my ambivalent relationship with Christmas. I’ve written articles that pissed off people close to me and made me reassess my own biases. I also humblebragged about my GPA, attacked the entire athletic department and referred to printers as “the sphincter of the internet.” (I stand by all three of those articles.)
In David Foster Wallace’s short story “Signifying Nothing,” the narrator describes a childhood memory that re-emerges in his young adulthood. He says, “I suddenly get this memory of my father waggling his dick in my face one time when I was a little kid.” If you know me well at all, there’s probably some Freudian shit you can say about that. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Point is, “Signifying Nothing” means a lot to me. I first submitted to the Orient in response to Eliot Taft '15’s article about digital maps. Since then, writing for this paper has helped me navigate the fraught topography of Bowdoin College. (Of course, these writerly travails never lack in bad puns.)
As a hardcore introvert, I will always value how this column has connected me to the Bowdoin community. I still haven’t mastered the Bowdoin Hello (try saying hi to me in H-L after 10 p.m.), but writing in the Orient has made me feel like a valued part of this college.
In tenth grade, my English teacher told me that “reading is one of the most social things a person can do.” This didn’t make any sense to me at the time, and it took me years to even understand what she was saying. But now, after a four-year-long liberal arts brainwash, I’ve come to understand the social value of written words. To quote another English teacher (who may have said this grasping a copy of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson or Moby Dick), “This is how you love people.”
So this, my final column, is dedicated to you. To my friends, who’ve graciously complimented (and held their tongues about) my writing. To my mother, who dutifully reads every one of my columns as soon as possible. To the faculty and staff who surprised me by mentioning the Orient. To the editors (s/o to Sam Chase) who let me publish pretty much whatever I want. I also dedicate this column to everyone else: those sports teams who dominate the gym basement, the anonymous transphobic Orient commenters, the center-left democrats (read: neoliberals) who care more about capitalism than social progress. All of you are as much a part of me as we are a part of Bowdoin.
Whether I like it or not, I spent four formative years in this place. (Less one semester in Bath, England, a “city” best described as “like the world’s worst cruise ship.”)
The best group I’ve joined at Bowdoin is called Radical Alternatives to Capitalism (RAC). This club valued inclusivity and diversity like no other place I’ve been, and I’ve often left our meetings with a profound love for humanity.
Right now, RAC is mostly seniors, and its future is uncertain. But that’s OK. Several years ago, Bowdoin had a “Social Democrats” club, which was guided by some of the same ideals as RAC. Now that Bernie Sanders is running for president “democratic socialism” has entered the American mainstream, but true anticapitalism remains taboo.
History tends to overlook radical thought. This is built into the structure of radicalism—“History is written by the victors,” (Walter Benjamin) and not the failed subversives. But radicalism has a precedent. From anti-Vietnam protests to apartheid boycotts and fossil fuel divestment, college students have resisted social norm to create genuine change.
During my time in college, I could have been a lot more involved in student activism. But this column has been one of my favorite ways to process my ideas and take part in conversations. Writing this has made me who I am. And, once again, this couldn’t have happened without all of you. To misquote Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” “I am vast. I contain multitudes.”
Thanks for nothing.