0 2 . 0 6 . 1 4
TheWel l nes sI s s ue I ns i de :Me nt a l a ndPhy s i c a l He a l t h
02.06.14 VOL. XLV, NO. 14
The Indy is excited for a stress free date event next week. Cover Design by ANNA PAPP
CONTENTS FORUM 3 And I Said Tape, Tape, Tape 4 A FitBit of Advice 5 Happily Unhappy NEWS 6 Stress Perception ARTS 7 Poppin' Crayons 8 A Book a Day Keeps Freud Away 9 Psych-Fi SPORTS 10 Bear With Me 11 Miami Vice
As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact President Albert Murzakhanov (president@harvardindependent. com). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Sean Frazzette (email@example.com). For email subscriptions please email president@ harvardindependent.com. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., Student Organization Center at Hilles, Box 201, 59 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Copyright ÂŠ 2014 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved.
President Albert Murzakhanov '16 Editor-in-Chief Sean Frazzette '16 Director of Production Anna Papp '16 News Editor Forum Editor Arts Editor Sports Editor Associate Forum Editor Associate Arts Editor Associate Design Editor
Milly Wang '16 Caroline Gentile '17 Sarah Rosenthal '15 Shaquilla Harrigan '16 Aditya Agrawal '17 Joanna Schacter Travis Hallett '14
Cartoonist John McCallum '16 Illustrator Eloise Lynton '17 Business Managers Frank Tambero '16 Manik Bhatia '16 Columnists Aditya Agrawal '17 Michael Feehly '14 Jackie Leong '16 Andrew Lin '17 Madi Taylor '16 Shreya Vardhan '17 Senior Staff Writers Christine Wolfe '14 Angela Song '14 Sayantan Deb '14 Michael Altman '14 Meghan Brooks '14 Whitney Lee '14 Staff Writers Manik Bhatia '16 Xanni Brown '14 Terilyn Chen '16 Lauren Covalucci '14 Clare Duncan '14 Gary Gerbrandt '14 Travis Hallett '14 Yuqi Hou '15 Cindy Hsu '14 Theodora Kay '14 Chloe Li '16 Dominique Luongo '17 Orlea Miller '16 Albert Murzhakanov '16 Carlos Schmidt '15 Frank Tamberino '16
They Tried to Make Me Go to Kneehab (So I went.) By LAUREN COVALUCCI
Your hip abductors are very weak.” “What?” “These muscles up here.” She poked hard at a muscle group near my glutes. “I’d expect to see a lot more strength here. You need to work on that.” On the examination table in the physical therapy center of HUHS, I thought back to the hour-and-a-half long dance classes I took four days a week in high school. The ones that made me want to drop down dead but also gave me the legs of a ballerina. Well, ballerino—I bulked up a bit. But even a woman would kill for Baryshnikov’s legs. “Really? I mean, I dance all the time. I thought my legs were pretty strong.” “Not your hips. No wonder you’ve been getting knee injuries.” So there was that. Apparently I had weak hip abductors, which weren’t doing their job in compensating for the duck-footedness or the extra stress on knees that women deserve for having those wide-set childbearing hips. How dare we. A note, gentle reader—the blame is not to be put on any high-impact activities I may or may not engage in. Oh, good for you, Lauren! You play basketball? Run track? Well,
The Harvard Independent • 02.06.14
no, I do modern dance, which isn’t technically a contact sport, but it turns into one if you want to have any fun at all. The party ended when I left high school and stopped getting decimated by my wonderful dance teacher several times a week. What I lost in technique and muscle tone I gained in a propensity to jump really high and then throw myself at the ground in interesting ways. Injuries ensued. I’m either a fragile human being or an overenthusiastic one, and I like to think I’m the latter. I will say that the accident that landed me in kneehab and physical therapy for my wrist wasn’t my fault. (I like blaming my choreographer but it wasn’t really his fault either.) A puddle of water did it. I was a sophomore, and it was my birthday, and I was in rehearsal for my modern company’s fall show, which was going up the next week. The thin rubber surface used on top of dance floors is extremely slipper when wet, which I knew. But I didn’t know about the puddle until a section of the dance piece until I tried to sprint straight through it. Down I went. Let me tell you about what I learned. KT Tape (kinesiology tape) is magic. It’s a cross between athletic tape
and Duck tape that gets stretched and stuck on your injured body part. Wonderful Physical Therapist Lady who (accurately) dissed my hip abductors would apply it to me once every five days or so for almost three weeks. It supports whatever joint isn’t doing its job and pushed the world’s most stubborn swelling out of my knee. Like I said—magic, though Ace bandages are still my goto for compression and a little extra support. You can buy it yourself now at CVS but in my opinion it’s kind of useless if you don’t know what you’re doing with it. I’d pick some up and try to replicate my knee tape but I’d just end up disappointing myself and I do enough of that already. Physical therapy is magic. There are people out there in the world who will explain to you why you’re in pain and will tell you how to fix it and give you magic tape. I liked PT because the solution wasn’t “take two Aleve and walk it off” or “invest in a Hoveround”. Something injured? That’s okay. Here’s how to rest it, here’s how to work on fixing it, and here’s how to prevent it from happening again. Very American, no? The third thing I learned, though, is that sometimes you’re stuck with what you’re stuck with. After babying it for half a year,
wearing a brace for three months, and a lifetime of avoiding weightlifting, the knee I sprained from that fall still acts up when it’s cold or when I try to lift something heavy at a certain angle. I’m a 21-year-old with joint pain. Come at me. I still remember the exercises I was given in kneehab and try to do them once in a while. It would make my heart happy to tell you that I haven’t had knee problems since, so it’s too bad I’m a terrible liar. A year later I was on crutches (happy birthday, again!). At the moment, it hurts to walk up stairs because I ran yesterday, which made them angry. Again. Maybe my 25th birthday present can be a double knee replacement. Lauren Covalucci (covalucci@college) is excited with the prospect of receiving KT every birthday from now on.
Despite Common Belief How technology is not making us fatter. By CAROLINE GENTILE
Fatty, fatty, two by four, can’t fit through the kitchen door, when the door begins to break, fatty had a tummy ache!”— This is a rhyme my mother likes to chant whenever my siblings or me are being lazy. Since the dawn of the creation of iPods/ Pads/Phones, we’ve heard this rhyme more and more. When I was younger, I was serenaded with it because I spent too much time sitting in front of our television (which was not HD, or even a flat screen—how times have changed!). Now, instead of parking it in front of the TV like I did in the olden days, my younger siblings have become glued to their Apple devices, playing Angry Birds or watching Netflix. In other words, they aren’t moving. Technology has made them, as it made me, as it has probably made a lot of people, sedentary. It’s no wonder that rising obesity rates have been attributed to our increased dependence on technology. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, I think technology can sometimes have the opposite effect. There are plenty of apps out there designed to keep track of what we eat and how much we exercise, with the goal that we’ll eat better and exercise more. I know of one in particular that takes money out of your bank account whenever you skip the gym. While that’s a bit extreme, I think fitness technologies have become increasingly more popular and more effective. The most zeitgeist-y piece of fitness technology on the market right now is the FitBit. It tells time, tracks sleep, counts steps, calculates calories burned based on your basal metabolic rate, tallies your active minutes, and monitors how many flights of stairs you scale everyday. All in the form of a waterproof, sweat-proof watch, albeit a watch that looks strikingly similar to something that someone might wear if they were on house 4
arrest. The FitBit connects to an app that can be downloaded on just about anything, and allows you to monitor all of those fun health stats whenever, wherever. It also allows you to “friend” other FitBit users so you can compare how many steps a day you’ve taken. Every member of my family got one for Christmas from my dad, who hoped that we would be more active if our laziness were quantified in the dismally low number of steps we took. He was right. When I first strapped on my FitBit, it became shockingly clear to me that I didn’t take 10,000 steps a day, the recommended daily amount. Not even close. That being said, it was J-term and I had a lot of Netflix to watch, but it was truly eyeopening to actually see just how active I wasn’t. The FitBit app allows you to compare how many steps you’ve taken with the amount taken by your FitBit “friends” (or in my case, my family). At first, I came dead last, every single day. But we’re a competitive bunch, and I was not about to be beaten by my iPad-addicted younger sister. So I started taking more stairs, going for more walks and runs with my overweight dog, and frantically marching in place to up my step count. While the first two approaches were effective, the last one wasn’t. The FitBit is too smart for such cheap tricks. It really makes you move. Even when I went on vacation to the beach, a time during which I usually assume a starfish-esque position in the sand between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm, I wore my FitBit so I could see how active I was being. Instead of starfishing, I went for walks. Not only did I get a more even tan, but I also destroyed that 10,000-steps-a-day recommendation. Once I got to back to school, I was (unfortunately) no longer taking hour-long strolls on the beach, nor watching Netflix in my bed. It was
time to see how active I was in my normal day-to-day life. As it turns out, at college, I usually take 10,000 steps a day without even trying. When I work out, or simply walk to the Quad from the rest of civilization, it can get up to 15,000, or even 20,000. Having something on my wrist that, with the click of a button, assesses my daily activity level helps me make conscious decisions to be more active. It also helps me see how many calories my body is burning so that I can eat accordingly. Since I’ve gotten my FitBit, I’ve made much healthier choices. While I do still watch Netflix on my iPad, I do it on the treadmill instead of in my bed, in hopes of adding 3,000 more steps to my daily count. By staying active (read: kicking my family’s ass with my super high step counts), I’ll always be able to at least fit through the kitchen door, and I’ll have technology to thank for that.
Caroline Gentile ’17 (cgentile@ college) is not a FitBit rep, despite common belief.
Photo by Caroline Gentile
02.06.14 • The Harvard Independent
Endemic Anxiety What we can and cannot do. By CHRISTINE WOLFE
s soon as the bomb threat was made, it was clear how campus media would portray it. Eldo Kim, put-upon Harvard student, forgotten by the administration, takes desperate ends representational of what could happen to any of us. It is important to remind ourselves as a community that this is simply not true. I don’t deny that Harvard had something to do with Eldo’s actions. As a member of the Independent, he was nice, quiet, and polite. Clearly, his academic stress weighed on him greatly, and the thought of taking an exam was too much. But it seems very likely that Harvard was not the only actor in the development of Eldo’s mental state. Most of us would not make a bomb threat, no matter how much dread we felt at the prospect of a challenging exam. And while being a Harvard student can feel quite isolating at times, we take for granted that our entire community is built around support systems. We complain about administrative negligence while in our dorm rooms watched over by proctors, tutors, resident deans, and housemasters. Almost no other college can claim that. Eldo bears most of the responsibility for his actions. Harvard bears some — but how much? The most frequently cited complaint against the Harvard administration is its insufficient attention to our mental health. Students seem to believe that UHS, the Bureau of Study Counsel, the various peer counseling groups, and the residential advising system do not provide adequate help in combatting the pervasive sense of anxiety and depression on campus. And even if these resources were enough, students find Harvard’s general attitude towards mental wellness antagonistic. For example, the suggested course of action for a student with serious mental health concerns is that he or she takes a semester’s leave. This policy has caused controversy amongst students, some who believe it prevents people in need from seeking help out of fear they will be forced to leave Harvard. This concern seems odd amidst all of our knowledge that the work-life balance at Harvard is not particularly welcoming to someone struggling with stress and/or self-worth. And if the shame a student felt in leave-taking would push someone to a more dangerous extreme? No one can know what exactly goes on inside a Resident Dean’s office, but we can be sure there are a lot of difficult decisions made. There is no easy solution to psychological distress, just as there is often no direct cause. There seems to be some unspoken belief amongst us that we are expected to have perfect mental health. But I know there is no professor or any member of the Harvard administration who
believes that we can be perfect all the time. I have never heard the College voice that expectation: on the contrary, I hear desperate attempts to solve the insolvable problem of high-achieving students creating a high-anxiety environment. We are the source of our own unachievable standards; we are human beings with human flaws and superhuman goals. So when criticisms of “Harvard” are voiced, where does (and should) our criticism fall? At the bureaucracy? Or at the Harvard we have made, one that demands from us more than we could possibly give? Does Harvard need to explicitly support academic imperfection? Perhaps there is some way to let us know we will not be forever struck from success if we deviate from 100%. Then again, the administration often purports this very attitude in speeches and interviews. At the Class of 2014’s Convocation, President Faust encouraged us to take risks. By take risks, she probably didn’t mean that we should try new things, be surprised that we can succeed at every task we have ever faced, and continue on to world domination. Every graduation speech, Dean’s interview, and Harvard alumni New York Times bestseller promises us we will never live up to all our expectations, but will somehow find our way to what we want with the determination we have cultivated as Harvard students. And what are often cited as causes of anxiety — OCI, unceasing preparatory panels, email reminders for every fellowship offered to highly educated mankind — are only the facilitation of opportunity Harvard has promised us. At least we’re repaid for years of anxiety, social inadequacy, and loneliness. Wouldn’t we perhaps complain more if Harvard backed off on being, you know, Harvard? There’s a hard truth underlying all of this: if you think Harvard doesn’t care about your mental health, wait until you get out into the real world. The people who care about you dwindle drastically, and no one is obligated or employed to keep watch over you. The people who are there to help are often those creating problems in the first place. The burden of sudden economic and familial loss will hang over all of us, be we bankers or painters. There is no such thing as perfect mental wellness, and no amount of mindfulness mediation will take away the depression and anxiety we will all inevitably feel. Life is not a joyful enterprise. And while that shouldn’t take away all we will find meaningful and satisfying, it’s something we don’t remember enough as coddled young people. Nothing and no one will ever be perfect, and our trying to make it so will only further our disappointment.
This is not to say that we cannot change the way we treat mental health at Harvard. Harvard Student Mental Health Liaisons’ Harvard Speaks Up presents individual struggles Harvard faculty, staff, and students have faced and conquered. These videos actively combat the feelings of insecurity and weakness we feel in our distress. We can continue to look at what other universities are doing to foster their students’ well being and modify them for Harvard’s unique — and, ideally, supportive — residential community. And, as we work on improving and inventing programs, we can all encourage other to seek the help that Harvard already provides. Even if we can’t all be happy all the time, we can try to cultivate a community of acceptance. Acknowledgement of fear is not recognition of weakness. Christine Wolfe ’14 (crwolfe@college) is a total downer.
Photo by Caroline Gentile
The Harvard Independent • 02.06.14
Loud and Clear
What Eldo Kim and grade inflation teaches us about mental health. By SEAN FRAZZETTE
ecently, graphic has floated around a number of my social networks. The diagram, a triangle of obligations for a typical college student, offers a student to pick two between getting work done, socializing with friends, or sleeping enough to be healthy. This is sad, but not because it is necessarily true. Rather, this is sad because the average college student probably thinks it is true. And in that idea, the truth behind mental health resides; that is, mental health will only be seen as important as the population will believe it to be. Perception has always ruled the world. Between Fox News or MSNBC reporting only what they want their viewers to believe and social figures offering no comment to major events that are happening, it is a well agreed upon fact that those who control perception control — to some effect — the opinions and thoughts that float in our social sphere. On December 16th, Harvard campus was thrown into a mix of panic and strange excitement. A bomb threat was emailed to multiple people, exams were temporarily postponed, and there was a combination of students who were afraid of a potential attack and those who assumed someone just pulled the colloquial fire alarm in a much more treacherous manner. By December 18th, a suspect had been found and he had admitted guilt. His name—Eldo Kim, the former Associate Arts Editor of the Independent, albeit a man many of us on staff regrettably did not know well. This will not be a story necessarily justifying Kim’s actions. This will be a story about perspective and perception. Surely, some people are tired of the constant mental health talks. Harvard itself has seemingly an unlimited amount of resources to talk about, deal with, and help with mental health issues. Nothing escapes the public’s eyes. With every gun control debate, there is always a faction of people trying to make mental wellbeing the prominent topic. Even in the sports world, between concussions and the Miami Dolphins’ locker room scandal this past year, mental health has been a hot button issue. None of this is a bad thing. Mental health should and will continue to be a discussed issue. And on a college campus, one’s wellbeing cannot be understated. Yet what is more troubling about
the Eldo Kim scenario is not that it happened—it’s that the perception was one of acceptance. Many people simply assumed the man was trying to get out of a final. This casual acceptance is the culture that must be changed. “Harvard is just like every other school, where students are just as stressed and caught up with their work. At Harvard especially, people are scared to fail or do poorly, even a B. It just kind of reflects just how high-stress it is here,” junior Alexander Ryjik stated as the Kim situation was unfolding. “If it is true that a student sent a bomb threat to prevent himself from taking a final, I think it’s sad that somebody would have to go to that length.” While the logical fallacy that somebody “would have to go to that length” can possibly come into question, this high stress environment is exactly what must be addressed on Harvard’s campus. Mental instability or damage is just like physical instability or damage — only it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Thus, one may feel like he must go to lengths that to the rational mind may see as preposterous. The Federal public defender on the case, Ian Gold, explained that Kim was dealing with the stress of exams while also coping with the threeyear anniversary of his father’s death. These are issues that one cannot just brush away. Losing a loved one is something that everyone goes through and everyone suffers through. It is never easy, and it is something worth talking about at another time. What should and can be addressed right now, however, is stress. In December, Dean Jay M. Harris announced, “The median grade in Harvard College is indeed an A-. The most frequently awarded grade in Harvard College is actually a straight A.” In a response to this news, government professor Harvey C. Mansfield suggested, “If this is true or nearly true, it represents a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards.” Maybe he did not mean it this way, but many students I talked with saw this is a shot at many people that are now deemed ‘underachievers’ — something a Harvard student most likely has never been. We’ve been told there is grade inflation, yet so many students are still stressed constantly about the prospect of getting a B, as Ryjik ‘15 said. So while Harvard concerns itself with the
academic integrity of inflating grades — a topic often called into question as relevant at all — its students have found simply another reason to stress out for the semesters that they spend here. Which goes back to the diagram that this article started with. Do students really, truly have to pick between work, sleep, and friends? And if they do, how is that in any way healthy? This is not an article with solutions. I know I don’t have any. As a literature concentrator and a sports writer, I don’t have the answers in any way. Heck, I barely passed SLS 20. But journalist Brian Philips wrote something that made me think much more about this issue. His argument (changed to be more applicable to college life) is as follows: If a person decides to start using elevators and asks for help carrying trays because they recently had surgery on their leg, no one would question this as being whiny. In fact, people in these cases are generally supportive. There are cards and flowers and aids. But when a person is struggling because of every day college stress, people simply accept it. Phillips wrote on the topic of the Miami Dolphins fiasco, penning, “The brain is a part of the body. It’s an organ. It’s a physical thing. Sometimes it breaks. Sometimes it breaks because you beat it against the inside of your skull so hard playing football, and sometimes — because it’s unimaginably intricate, the brain, way more intricate than even a modified read-option — it breaks for reasons that are harder to see.” We are in a new society for many reasons. In a post-9/11 America, what Kim did is terrifying. But with monumental gains in understanding mental health, we also know that there is more to this story. Harvard is a place many people call home. But to foster a community where people assume a bomb threat is to get out of a final — no matter if it actually were — and where that students feel dumb for not getting straight As is to foster an unstable home life. Like how every part of the body must be taken care of, from the ACLs to the brain, every student on Harvard’s campus must know that there is something — rather, someone — taking care of them. Sean Frazzette ‘16 (sfrazzette@college) is happy to live in such a supportive community.
02.06.14 • The Harvard Independent
Sick, Sad World
Why boredom and cynicism are preferable to drugs. By SARAH ROSENTHAL
n high school I — a student as enthusiastic about those four years as Daria Morgendorffer — gave tours as a Student Ambassador. I remember one tour when an enthusiastic parent, noticing the AP Art class’s work in the hallway, stated about one particularly colorful piece, “Wow, he must have been on some kind of drugs to think of that.” It was infuriating. I hear frequently about the association between art and drugs, and I’m tired of it. Because the connection between the two surpasses mere explorations of the “doors of perception” and the outer limits of the human mind, and it warrants more serious conversations about recreational drug usage in the arts. Though I know little about why Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jimi Hendrix, and numerous others each got into drugs, I feel confident saying that we shouldn’t dismiss their drug use as necessary to their creative processes. Perhaps they had spelled out justifications to themselves, and acknowledged risks, and saw the potential spiritual and artistic benefits as aspects of life that one shouldn’t miss. This may be so, but to push the devastation of addiction and death aside in the name of art and even, in my opinion, “transcendent” experiences is, in fact, pitiful. But my purpose here is not to re-hash a Requiem for a Dream vision of the horrors of drugs and to restate dangers we have all either acknowledged or chosen to ignore (perhaps with a sad shrug when a drug-related death occurs). And I know that many people understand that different drugs carry widely-varying risks of harm and addiction, but that is not really the point here. Believe it or not, even those who consciously know the risks are susceptible to bad one-time decisions with longlasting negative effects. And it may be especially true for those whose professions or statuses automatically place them in the often inappropriately celebrated pairing of “artists and drugs.” For this reason, I here refer to “drugs” in general, knowing entirely that the same drugs associated with enhanced creativity are not necessarily those most likely to kill. At this moment, I am more concerned with the concept of drugs and how they relate to the concept of art. So instead of repeating warnings or words of regret, let’s think about how an outright rejection of drugs benefits art. I don’t mean to consider it as a life passively free of drugs and still productive. Rather, a life in which you actively deny them to yourself, as though they are constantly in your pocket and you chose never to ingest them. Not for ethical reasons or the avoidance of risk, but for certain benefits. It is obviously unrealistic to think that people will stop using drugs altogether
The Harvard Independent • 11.21.13 02.06.14
and that such a method of abstinence is the correct way to eliminate the diverse losses and conflicts brought about drug use. But with frequent praise of drugs’ ability to enhance creativity circulating the internet, a disgustingly seductive media outlet, a conversation about the creative benefits of sobriety — even in sobriety’s darkest corners — can broaden the way we consider our relationships to drugs. First, pushing aside the mental, physical, and legal dangers of drugs for a moment, let’s think about what life is like without chemical and conceptual drugs. It can be painfully boring. Maybe it perpetuates cynicism, showing the intelligent how disgusting life can be and giving little escape from the horrors humanity brings upon itself. Maybe it is mentally unadventurous, and maybe it prevents certain challenges that, once overcome, leave an individual more fulfilled. Maybe it is a life that can neither experience the highest peaks of happiness nor create the most horrifyingly, unbelievably beautiful products of human effort. To put it simply, the highest forms of sobriety are boredom and cynicism. And in my opinion, these are the characteristics that make art intelligent, far-reaching, and fundamentally human. They are the parents of observation and critical thought. Boredom and cynicism give us the moments when we present honesty. They force individuals to confront truth and to think about the place of negativity in our lives. They are useful for the very fact of their sobriety and discomfort. Because they are necessarily situations that make us reevaluate who we are, what we value, the reality we are upset with, and the ways we wish things were. Moments of boredom are entirely personal; they remind us of how slowly time can go by and how many sounds are constantly in the air around us. Boredom is the form of annoyance that occurs merely due to an absence of anything else to occupy the mind. The fascinating thing about the banal is the fact that its banality itself becomes beautiful when confronted head on. It can be a difficult idea to accept, but having spent a long time now considering my relationship to the banal, the ultimate in the non-remarkable, I can confidently say that it is fascinating. We are surrounded by objects whose materials, which may have traveled immense distances, arrived here as a result of complex political relationships between nations. Consider the chairs arranged neatly around the tables in your dining hall. Their components have been ripped from their origins and manipulated into unrecognizable forms, or else were born out of humanity’s tendency to play God. They have designs that supposedly cater to psychological and physical comfort. They
were easily reproducible and in theory are entirely the same as one another, but each has an entirely different history, with different stains and strains. They occupy such specific locations in space, and move forward and backward repeatedly in a frenetic dance. And most interestingly, we sit on them daily and are entirely bored by them. They are so boring that you would have to be thoroughly bored yourself to find beauty and value in them without prompting. Cynicism works similarly. It accompanies critical thought and arises out of efforts to approach ideas from varying angles. Contrary to simplified understandings, cynicism is not about rejecting those things that make others feel comfortable for the sake of being contrary. Rather, the goal is to reject the affectations, corruption, and complacencies that riddle society and lead to make it possible to identify significant beauty. Much of the 20th century art that examines the human condition along entirely new — if frequently hermetic — terms stems from knowledge of the devastation that occurred after World War II and the understanding that complacency is no longer an option. As Theodor Adorno stated, “To make poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Seeing the world through brutally honest, cynical lenses calls for a re-evaluation of beauty itself. And the ability to discern and define beauty according to new terms, tuned to the utter destruction humanity often brings upon itself, results in art that is aware of our humanity in its boring, hideous glory. Because when it comes down to it, the ugliness of human atrocities makes the “ugly” of traditional aesthetic terms into nothing less pleasant than the acquired taste of anchovies. Of course, the world is never going to replace its drug use with an appreciation for the beauty of the boring. And drugs will continue to play a devastating effect on many people for many reasons while bringing some enjoyment to others. When all is said and done, though, our society could do with a re-evaluation of art and drugs as a pair. But that’s just the cynic in me talking. Sarah Rosenthal ’15 (srosenthal@college) is deeply sad at the loss of another great performer.
Kitty’s Sickness, Herzog’s Letters, and Illnesses of the Heart By SHREYA VARDHAN “Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart, and then he will be sorry for what he has done.” -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
rs. Bennet’s hopes in this regard were to remain unfulfilled — her daughter Jane did not die of a broken heart after Mr. Bingley’s inexplicable abandonment. Another of Austen’s characters, however, did come dangerously close to such a fate — Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility, whose hopes regarding one charming John Willoughby were cruelly dashed, spent the greatest part of the book in a state of escalating illness caused supposedly by her grief. Marianne’s illness is reminiscent of that of Kitty Scherbatsky in Anna Karenina: when it becomes clear that her love for Count Vronsky, which has all through been encouraged and callously humored by him, is in fact unrequited, a mixture of shock, grief and shame puts Kitty in a state of terrible physical suffering — something very like tuberculosis. After a frightening spell, the illness goes away when she discovers anew the greater things in life, such as religion, service, and Konstantin Levin, the inelegant but kind-hearted admirer she had turned down in her former infatuation. Tolstoy and Austen, with their keen skills of observation, must have seen how impossible or rare it is for emotional anguish to lead so directly to recognizable physical illnesses — indeed, this rarely seems to happen outside of classical writers’ romanticism or Douglas Adams’s wit (Of Ford Prefect, a resident of the planet Betelgeuse in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams tells us: “Because Ford never learned to say his original name, his father eventually died of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts of the Galaxy.”). Neither of the writers described these illnesses with tongue in cheek; Kitty and Marianne are not like (for instance) Mrs. Bennet with her nervous troubles, who would imagine a sentimentally aroused illness for herself and be perfectly convinced of it; they are characters we are expected to empathize with, and their illnesses are sincere. Why, then, did they choose to have their characters’ anguish manifest itself in such a way? And why, where Austen is concerned, must this happen in Marianne’s case but not in Jane’s? All stories involve, and to a great extent are shaped by, challenges or tragic circumstances of one kind or another, but there is decidedly a line that can be drawn somewhere between relatively happier books and sadder ones. Nor would the distinction be made purely, or even majorly, on the basis of the end: it is more about the tone of the book through the middle, the emotional responses of the characters to their situations — the net amount of suffering. In both Kitty’s and Marianne’s cases, the intensity of the anguish and despair is shown to be deeper than the ordinary; there is an absolute detachment from happiness. Their frames of mind are also amorphous. In both cases, there is an element of confusion mixed in with the sadness that makes it all the more tormenting: they are unaware of the exact nature of their grief. It would not do for the narrator to tell the reader at the outset that the real cause of Kitty’s pain is the injury to her vanity or that Willoughby’s despicable selfcenteredness lies at the core of Marianne’s unhappiness; we must arrive at these conclusions later, when they precipitate from the character’s analyses or epiphanies. For instance, such a moment of clarity occurs when Marianne hears the details of Willoughby’s eventual apology, sees that he is preoccupied even here with his own unhappiness rather than hers, and understands that he has never cared about much more than his own selfish desires. The challenge before the writer is then this: they must describe grief of unusual intensity without ever defining the precise nature of the grief. Illness — a state of simply not being well, being removed in a definite way from happiness, health, and general wellness — presents a solution to this. By employing disease in this way, the writer can have something more vivid than the word sadness or devastation to show for internal suffering, and he or she can leave the causes mysterious and unresolved. It is the kind of illness of spirit that Hamlet speaks of when he says to Horatio, “Thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart.” In Hamlet, also, the inner misery finds outward display in illness: madness.
There is and has always been an ambiguity as to whether Hamlet was truly mad or only shrewdly pretending to be so, and in a number of instances we find characters who wish for sickness or death to replace the ambiguity of their situations with the definite recognition of their suffering. Anna of Anna Karenina, for instance, is wholly convinced that she will die in childbirth, and looks forward to the event with a morbid excitement. Her motivation here is then similar to that of Tolstoy and Austen when they make their characters fall physically sick somewhat inexplicably: to create a physical manifestation of mental suffering. The characters’ desire for sickness seems to be as much for others‘ sake as for themselves, as a form of either revenge or atonement. Mrs. Bennet, for instance, manages to take others‘ feelings into consideration before her own: the changeful Bingley’s repentance on seeing the damage he had caused was clearly more important than the claims of her own maternal affection. Likewise, Anna Karenina’s death during her confinement would have redeemed her in the eyes of both her husband and her lover, and her own life would evidently be a reasonable price to pay. Physical disintegration is, however, certainly not the only way in which chaotic emotional suffering has been represented in literature. Moses Herzog in Saul Bellow’s Herzog is the epitome of suffering — he apparently “once had the makings of a clever character,” but in middle age is trying to recover from a humiliating marriage which ended when his wife, Madeleine, abandoned him for his best friend. Moreover, his youthful dream of becoming a great social philosopher has over the years lost all its value, and he can safely be called a failure in both professional and personal life. It is interesting that despite all this, Herzog’s physical health is excellent, and that this fact is not merely mentioned in passing but emphasized, as the man “had done his best to be sick.” The lack of physical pain corresponding to the mental trauma seems, if anything, to add to his torment. Herzog’s suffering is made known to us through a narration of his thoughts — a brilliant narration in which the chaotic, half-formed, and occasionally fluent character of thoughts is retained — and through spontaneous, rambling letters that he is seized by the urge to write to everyone, including the dead. He never mails these, of course, and writes with fascinating frankness. The sad, stirred state of his mind is reflected by both the contents of these letters and their very existence. This is a strange, beautiful, and very effective evocation. In Jane Bennet of Pride and Prejudice we see yet another alternative. Perhaps the answer to why Jane’s broken heart did not affect her other physiological functions lies in the fact that her grief, while equally or more intense, did not have the amorphous, incompletely understood character of Marianne’s or Kitty’s. The injustice she is faced with is clearly defined yet deeply felt, there are no faults of attitude or perception that she herself can be faulted with in this case, and the silence with which she bears it (not complaining even through her health) is moving. At the same time, it is hard to say if this silence of both the character and the narrator (Austen never really described Jane’s thoughts as she did Elizabeth’s) lets the reader be sufficiently mindful of the character’s sorrow. An objective look would suggest that Jane suffered more than Elizabeth over the course of the book, but closer contact with Elizabeth’s feelings led to a far more acute sense of her travails. The most effective way of showing internal conflict, then, is probably to provide in some way an account of the thoughts that are in conflict — the things we channel our thoughts into, such as letters or even conversations, can clearly be used in interesting ways in aid of this account — and describe the difficult details of the search for harmony. Shreya Vardhan ’17 (shreyavardhan@college) wonders if she should be upset that the word suffering appeared eight times in this article despite diligent efforts to use other synonymsnine now.
11.21.13 • The Harvard Independent 02.06.14
The Sci-fi Mind A look into the world of mental wellness and science fiction. By ANDREW LIN
nto the padded cell the patient goes, probably wrapped in a straitjacket and gagged for good measure before being carted around to psychologists, wardens, and therapists inside a huge prison of an asylum, itself most likely done up in miserable and dour colonial red brick or grey concrete. The action soon moves from the stereotypical asylum to another prison — the victim’s hapless and malfunctioning mind, a jail cell in miniature populated by anthropomorphic representations of split personalities and devilish antagonists, cartoon representations of the havoc wrought by the very real menace of rogue neurotransmitters and errant brains. As viewed by the media, this has served as the clichéd visual language of mental illness, the traditional medium through which various cultural works of yore and today have woven its tales and delivered its own gently judgmental parables on the nebulous and often-misunderstood world of mental health. Played straight, of course, such imagery can often deliver powerful and lasting messages on disparate topics from the realities of authority (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) to the loss of innocence in the face of racism (To Kill a Mockingbird) and indeed does still hold relevance today. Nevertheless, the imagery from the bad old days of mental health perceptions in the media has given way to an altogether more nuanced look at mental health issues; television shows such as Monk and United States of Tara offer thoroughly modern, sensitive and insightful views on mental illness today. But what of mental illness tomorrow, and indeed by extension into the next years of the future and beyond? This is the realm of science fiction again, and indeed it too offers much in the way of everything from parochial closed-mindedness to highlevel analysis of mental illness and the mental condition, all within the lens of the future. The Victorian era saw the first mention of mental
The Harvard Independent • 11.21.13 02.06.14
health in science fiction with Robert Lewis Stevenson’s seminal 1885 proto-science-fiction horror novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The novel itself has become a veritable byword for dissociative identity disorder in modern culture, what with the help of Stevenson’s gift for dramatic storytelling and the collective ardor of pop-culture cartoonists and filmmakers alike. Behind the gothic undertones and early-horror theatrics, however, Jekyll and Hyde offers a piercing indictment of Victorian-era mores: Dr. Jekyll represents the straightlaced and stuffy Victorian gentleman, while Mr. Hyde encapsulates the raw animalistic desire suppressed during that very era. Science has a role in this as well, with the mystical potion Jekyll uses to suppress his alter ego being indicative of the role civilization has had in suppressing the human psyche’s atavistic instinct. While Jekyll and Hyde does integrate mental illness into the overall fabric of the novel as a whole, Stevenson nonetheless does not confront the issue itself headon, instead using mental illness as simultaneous subtext and a dramatic tool (camouflaged by the speculativefiction aspects) for advancing the plot. Fast-forward some 80 or so years later and mental illness and its treatment received scathing criticism in works such as Anthony Burgess’s 1962 dystopian science-fiction novel A Clockwork Orange and Stanley Kubrick’s classic film adaptation of the same name. Certainly the protagonist qualifies as mentally disturbed: Alex is a sociopath in every sense of the word, indulging in horrific acts of “ultra-violence” throughout the whole of the movie. Nor is the future in A Clockwork Orange particularly pleasant either, with wandering gangs of youth (who speak a crypto-psychopathic blend of Slavic languages and English called Nadsat) menacing an England tightly ruled by a quasi-totalitarian government. As a dramatic construct, however,
A Clockwork Orange presents far more than some mere mental-healthmentioning sci-fi thriller; rather, it wields a double-edged sword that hacks through the dual controversies of psychological therapy as it existed in the 1960s and the inability of governments to even so much as comprehend urban blight. Though Alex’s acts and deeds, ranging from the rape of two ten-year-olds (Alex himself is but 15 years old) to the robbery and eventual murder of an old cat lady, are most assuredly brutal in the extreme, they are matched by the outright torture that is the government rehabilitation “aversion therapy” he is put through. A clear stab at the behaviorist theories of prominent psychologists such as B.F. Skinner, the “aversion therapy” Alex endures is behaviorism (and for that matter Pavlovian classical conditioning) taken to its illogical extreme. In the course of his therapy, Alex is injected with nauseainducing drugs and forced to watch videos depicting extreme violence – a blunt application of classical conditioning to forcibly dissuade Alex from violence of any sort or form. The therapy did not solely focus on violence as well: Beethoven was the soundtrack Alex (a classical-music aficionado) received to the violence and nausea, thus removing even the small joy of artistic appreciation from Alex’s already-fractious life. Nor is the government any wiser to how to deal with youth problems: Alex’s social worker in A Clockwork Orange is totally and utterly removed from the complex fabric of the youth gangs in this Britain of the future, and the government itself lacks large-scale effective rehabilitative solutions. At the end of A Clockwork Orange (at least the Stanley Kubrick movie – the book includes a redemptive chapter), Alex is ultimately left the same violent and depraved killer – perhaps the harshest indictment of a government and society unable to render assistance in the face of mental illness. Science fiction perspectives
on mental health issues are not perpetually gloomy, however, for the happy-go-lucky Star Trek franchise certainly represents the more optimistic side of mental health in science fiction. Star Trek’s take on mental health issues comes packaged in the form of one Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, an engineering officer shackled by social anxiety, phobias of everything from the franchisefamous transporters to spiders, and an addiction to the holodeck, a holographic simulation chamber. Star Trek, however, does not offer impassioned tour-de-forces railing against the injustices of governments or Victorians; rather, it depicts a Barclay rehabilitated gently with the help of fellow officers and an in-ship counselor in a rolling character arc spread over a few episodes. Star Trek offers perspectives on more potent mental issues as well, with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine addressing posttraumatic stress disorder in the course of its sprawling Dominion War arc and even the original series hamming it up in an admittedly heavy-handed action story concerning panaceas for mental illness. The overarching theme with Star Trek in regards to mental wellness, though, is one of optimism, one that focuses on the individual human struggle with the concurrences of events and mental imbalances that precipitate mental disruptions — and that optimism, more so than heavy-handed criticism and raging polemic, is the true gift of science fiction to all those struggling with mental illness. Andrew Lin ’17 (andrewlin@college) prefers box sets of various seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to promote his personal mental health.
A quirky guide to becoming semi-athletic. By CHRISTINE WOLFE
e Harvard students, masters of evolutionary strategy, bear ourselves through winter much as our ursine cousins do. We grow our fur out, accumulate insulating blubber layers, and viciously maul territorial intruders. But while the claws of our knowledge are sharp, they are also inconvenient for typing those last few (or many) thesis chapters, job applications, or late-night texts to potential mates. With weapons meant for destroying our greatest enemy, we often bring great harm to ourselves. While it is unclear if bears struggle with anxiety disorders, Harvard students certainly do, as can be evidenced by the many “hibernation dens” of UV lamps, tear-stained pillowcases, and Pringle crumbs found throughout campus. While some of our stress may be alleviated through aptly timed perusal of bear gifs (that waving bear loves you), we often forget about comforts outside of subcutaneous fat storage (given there are others). Humans often forget that bears are quite an active species. Physical activity has been shown in every Women with Hot Butts magazine to improve mental health1, 2. But there’s more to feeling good than looking hot (well...maybe not). Getting out and stretching your muscles invokes an awakening, an arising from that stolid state of winter sleep to which we so easily fall prey. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their blockmates. So here’s the Indy’s list3 of 6 Physical Activities No One Will Actually Do Even Though We Would Feel Better If We Did Them In Decreasing Order of Difficulty:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Join a club team: Harvard offers, at last count, 63 club sports. While some of them, like billiards, might not get your lactic acid flowing, being part of a team provides community and motivation that will keep you coming back. While club sports are not an especially low commitment extracurricular, getting involved in something fun and physically challenging provides a much needed balance to sitting on our asses alone at the computer all day. Check out http://recreation.gocrimson.com/recreation/club_sports/12-13_clubsports to see the listing of official club sports. Go on an Outing Club trip: No other mailing list--with the possible exception of OCS--can make you feel worse than the Harvard Outing Club. With weekly trips to explore New England’s stunning natural beauty, we really have no excuse. From beginner’s hikes to high level mountaineering, HOC offers Harvard much needed recourse to get out of the Harvard bubble and into the Great Outdoors. As Section Kid 1833-1837 once said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” You can find other wannabe Transcendentalists at http://harvardoutingclub.org/. Have sexual intercourse: See Cosmo.
House/MAC Yoga and Meditation classes: For some of us, yoga may further fuel mental anguish: those offended by yuppies and camel toe may opt to venture elsewhere. But for those of us who can bear it, yoga is meant to both relax the “spirit” and strengthen the “core.” Which is good. Many Houses offer weekly yoga classes, as does the Center for Wellness and the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC). And, for those with no shame, there’s Zumba. Go to the gym: It’s just not that hard. Most Houses have their own gyms, convenient for both tightening and gawking. For those wanting a more anonymous experience, undergraduates have access to both the MAC and Hemenway gyms. Going to the gym most days of the week helps set a healthy regimen that can also involve watching E! shows. How often can you say that? Watch curling: I don’t know about you, but when that stone glides down the sheet, looking for its way home, every muscle inside me tenses up. I get up to sweep alongside the players, moving my arms in and out with an unmatched grace. Curling, perhaps the greatest sport to grace our good planet, invokes in its audience a desperate need to engage. As you practice your delivery stance, your quads and abs will tighten, and you can feel what it is to be close to greatness. Be sure to root for Team USA in the Women’s Qualifier on February 10th.
1. Bears don’t cite shit. 2. WHAT IF THEY AD BOARD ME http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/cardio-workouts#. 3. PRINT MEDIA IS DEAD LONG LIVE THE LIST Christine Wolfe ‘14 (firstname.lastname@example.org) can’t bear waiting for the Winter Olympics to begin.
02.06.14 • The Harvard Independent
GO STATE! Bringing the thrill to Ivy League Sports
By DOMINIQUE LUONGO
magine yourself screaming “GO HARVARD!” at the top of your lungs. You are surrounded by a sea of crimson that ebbs and flows in unison with you as you find yourself feeling the emotions of the collective: either exuberant or frustrated. Like your fellow spectators you are holding a blood red foam finger and a proudly displaying the Veritas shield on your chest as you dare someone to challenge your pride, your love, your team. No, I am not quite describing The Game, nor any other local(ish) campus sporting event that you may find yourself attending (seriously guys, please attend — HDA could use some serious love). Rather, I am detailing the rather unusual, but not unpleasant, sensation of finding myself at a Harvard Athletics event over winter break. I am not a Massachusetts student, battlehardened to misery of coats drenched in snow and the outline of salt on every surface imaginable that was exposed to the elements. I am a Floridian, and I mean a South Floridian who suffers from “deep freeze” whenever there is a possibility of weather in the 60s. But that, alas, is another story entirely. I was incredibly pleased to attend a Harvard Basketball game in Boca Raton, mere minutes away from my home in Delray Beach, FL. Who were my courtside comrades? None other than the Harvard Clubs of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties. The experience of connecting with Harvard alums
The Harvard Independent • 02.06.14
was unbelievable. They offered a perspective that sheds a new light on what we go through here as students – everyone had a unique story about the roads that they followed in life, and how many were unexpected. Meeting future spouses (looking at you, readers) and employers took on a mythical element as I heard various Harvard grads recount their lives after their time here in Cambridge. It was incredible to see how serendipitous many of the circumstances in their lives were, and how prominent a role Harvard played in the grand narratives that wove. I was not exempt from the pleasant task of recounting my experiences as a first year college student. In fact, I had to contend with serious disbelief as I informed an alum that a recent UC poll favored co-educational dorms. He said that it was about time that the houses became co-ed, and I had to gently inform him- much to his astonishmentthat the houses had already been co-ed for years and now they were considering making suites co-ed. Seeing the basketball team far away from home in weather that was conducive to shorts and tank tops was immensely gratifying. It’s easy to forget when you venture from your dorms (or rather Lamont as finals came to a close) and back home that you go to a university with such a storied and intricate history. The connections that you make here will last much longer than the parties that get shut down by HUPD on Friday nights, your memories of HUDS food will be those of memorable
conversations shared over dinner and frigid treks to Annenberg that you dearly wish you could skip. All of this is lost when you spend some time and home and reconnect with what it means to relax and lose the constant hum that sounds in your ears as your inbox floods with an excessive amount of e-mails, the majority of which you will never read to truly garner the contents of. Despite the effects of time and the differences in campus life and environment, we were all unified by a common love of Harvard and a willingness to cheer, sigh, and leap as one in our expression of support for the greatest team in the Ivy League, Division I, and, quite frankly, the world. Though Harvard lost to FAU by a considerable amount, the spirit of support was in the air, and our boys knew that we were behind them, far from home. Let this be a call to arms to increase your attendance of games. Harvard alums were thrilled by the prospect of supporting the Crimson over 1,500 miles away and yet the Harvard Department of Athletics has trouble mustering up a handful of fans even when offering free “swag” of every variety imaginable from t-shirts to bags to earbuds. As the sage Harvard graduates I met could attest, in future years you’ll be sorry that you didn’t. Dominique Luongo ‘17 (dominiqueluongo@college) is already buying her tickets for next year’s South Florida games.
c a pt ur e d& s ho t
t a k e ni nVi k , I c e l a ndb yS ARAH ROS ENTHAL
Published on Feb 6, 2014
Harvard takes health seriously. Between the stress of college life and the physical activity of twenty-somethings, both mental and physical...