Before you co-sign junior’s college loan…
…just think that your precious could end up sending an email like this to a college administrator:
I’ve recently picked up a small number of crystals for spiritual reasons, and with them has come a need to cleanse them on a fairly regular basis. I need a place to burn white sage for this, but I can’t burn anything inside any of the buildings on campus for fairly obvious reasons. And, in most outdoor areas on campus, there’s too much wind interference and the smoke would disperse before I could actually smudge the crystals.
My question is, would it be alright if I used the outdoor courtyard of [
redacted] to cleanse my crystals? Less wind blows through the area, and, though it’s artificial running water and therefore not much help in the actual cleansing process, the fountain does help provide a calmer aura than most other places on campus.**
Part of me says it’s not cricket to make fun of anyone’s belief system, no matter how absurd it seems to me. Really.***
Part of me says this is why I’m not cut out for certain jobs in higher education: I never, ever want to be in a position that would require me to respond politely (or at all) to a request like this.
…part of me says that as a parent, I’ll be damned if I spend a dime on college for any sprout that would dive that deep into the woo. They’d have to dig out. Otherwise — there’s too much rubble in way to permit the critical thinking that makes all else in education possible .
You may consider this an open thread.
*Yes. I do realize I should have titled this “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” But it didn’t occur to me quickly enough. It was ever thus…
**Identifers for both the student and the institution deleted for obvious reasons. As I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to learn, it didn’t come from an MIT student. I got this passed on to me by a central admin person at another American institution; you’ll just have to trust me on the provenance.
***if I can’t stop snickering — and I can’t…well perhaps that’s my problem.
Image: Raphael, School of Athens, 1505
The college I attended probably has an official sage-burning pit somewhere on campus. (That said, it’s still a very good school for the right sort of person.)
Davis X. Machina
If I were the administrator in question I would ask myself, “What Jowett of Balliol would do?”
Back i the sixties they’d say, Heavy, man.
The student sounds like he’s in a phase that someone usually goes through at a much younger age.
Doesn’t seem any sillier than most religious rituals. Probably a lot cheaper than a lot of the shenanigans kids get up to in college.
Why is this such an unusual request? Would you have been less taken aback or more approving if theyd asked for a spot to burn the bud?
The years I spent in Santa Fe have rendered me powerfully allergic to New Agers.
Says I don’t have permission to edit.
I wanted to add, that painting has such a depth of field that makes it amazing.
Yeah, I’m not seeing the big deal. It’s utter crap of course, but how is it any weirder than smudging ash on a forehead? Heck, it’s LESS weird than the obsession with football that grips many campuses.
New Iron Man 3 trailer is out! What do ya’ll think???
BTW, it comes out May 2013 here, not April. this is the “UK” trailer version
Democrat Partisan Asshole
UC Santa Cruz. This is almost word for word the kind of woo shit I’d hear from the filthy hippies whilst I was in attendance there.
@Geoduck: UC Santa Cruz?
Well, my youngest kid’s fall break trip to Jamaica is a total bust. Fucking hurricane has wiped out any hope for diving, and we’re packing for an extensively alcohol-free stay at an evacuation center, to sleep on a cot among strangers for two to three days. She’s bored shitless with the lack of activity, and my wife is irritated with my desire to go drink with the Brits.
Well, at least that seems to be a fairly neighbor-friendly type of belief system except for a little bit sage smoke every now and then. I wonder if the campus Christian
outrageoutreach is as thoughtful.
Cleansing crystals, huh?
We used to call that getting wasted.
As I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to learn, it didn’t come from an MIT student.
Ah, so a Harvard kid, then.
And honestly, whatever makes them happy. Isn’t this sort of stuff what college is for?
Your comment about what you’d do if you were a parent presumes that this kid didn’t pick up all this nonsense from his own parents? If he or she is a freshman, it’s likely that either the parents are New Agers or, at the very least, have indulged their kid’s interest in New Age for some time. And considering that the college in question probably has a chapel on campus for the benefit of kids whose beliefs are no more or less preposterous than New Ageism, I’m not terribly offended at this.
@Spaghetti Lee: Heh.
This is mere every day stuff, as I am told by a relative in higher ed who has to deal rather frequently with issues of student discipline. His best stories were of the guy in the chicken suit crawling through the duct work & the self-important freshman who wrote to the dean of students telling him that he was unfit for his position since he didn’t seem to realize that freshmen could certainly not be expected to refrain from drinking alcohol on campus. (The second young man was encouraged to seek educational opportunities elsewhere.) We look forward to seeing him at holidays to hear more tales of adventure in higher ed.
Dammit, Marie, it’s a freaking mineral, all right?
Are you completely sure it was not a joke?
Yale. Definitely Yale.
I’m with Groucho48 on this one. This request sounds no more or less ridiculous than any number of other more “legitimate” religious rituals. The request is polite and there’s no obvious spelling or grammatical errors. This kid is all right in my book.
(except, of course, for believing in wack-a-doodle nonsense, but as stated above, that’s hardly disqualifying.)
It would be the lack of personal initiative that irked me. When I was a young animist, we just went ahead and smudged our crystals privately, without whining for approavl from the authorities!
Of course, being on a midwestern agricultural campus (in a dorm with a lot of smokers, including tobacconisers) greatly facilitated access to safe burnpits…
I understand the combination of sage smoke and pepper spray has a special je ne sais quoi that’s hard to beat (even with a drum circle).
In other higher education fraud news, LGM has this doozy.
If you really want to know, Google my name and “mascot”.
Wow. That was probably the most closed minded, insensitive post I’ve ever seen. So you if you have a spiritual belief you are incapable of critical thinking at a college level?
/leaves shaking head
See, I was thinking by an MIT kid after having hacked a Haavaard kid’s email.
You should hear some of the shit students come into MY office and lay on my desk. Jeebus. Give me a bunch of poor, inner city kids (often with no parents or parents who are clueless about higher education) who have worked their asses off to get into college any day over the over priviledged, self-indulgent middle and upper middle class kids (and their parents) any day. The poor kids come in asking about jobs and how to apply for scholarships and when to file their FAFSAs. The middle and upper middle class kids think money falls from the sky and that I am there to hand it out to them with no effort on their part or having to meet any sort of criteria to get it.
Parents today are the suck. They have crippled their children.
Ah, Evergreen. Now for duelling mascots. In this corner, the mighty Geoducks and in this corner, the likewise awesome Banana Slugs. Let’s have a fair
I don’t see what the big deal is. As many have noted, it’s not more or less than any other religious activity. Of course, I’m biased. My freshman year of college, I experimented with Wicca and other New Age religions over the years. I cleaned crystals, had a special cloth to wrap them and my tarot cards in, and all sorts of stuff.
Today? I am in the “spiritual not religious” camp and I will cop to a certain amount of “woo”. But not to the point where it interferes with critcal thinking or trying to understand different people and different experiences.
Another recent post (meth-related, I think?) was titled ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion.’
So, this is somehow more weird than Christians demanding to be provided a space in which they could engage in ritual blood drinking and cannibalism? When it comes to weird religions, Christians almost always come in first. Jews usually land a safe second. Yet, almost no one thinks it the least bit odd that campuses provide, almost by default, locations for those folks to engage in their rituals. Compared to what Christians and Jews believe, the idea of burning a little sage incense, listening to nature, and staring at something shiny for a while seems pretty unremarkable in comparison. Yet, thanks to our cultural background, the blood drinkers, cannibals, and animal-sacrifice-by-proxy folks in the Judeo-Christian religious traditions are somehow considered to be the “normal” folks.
Tom Levenson @ Top:
I’m of two minds on this — in personal temperament and logic, I’m inclined to agree. I don’t have much use for mystiche schiesse.
Then, on the other hand, I remember that Yeats, one of my favorite poets, once wrote the supremely silly A Vision: An Explanation of Life Founded upon the Writings of Giraldus and upon Certain Doctrines Attributed to Kusta Ben Luka.
It’s a conundrum.
Sorry for the double-post.
Democrat Partisan Asshole
@Gwiwer: No. They’re both equally idiotic.
I could easily see an MIT student using the cleansed crystals to do something like launch a spaceship into orbit. Why you dissing your school, Tom?
@TaMara (BHF): I agree. “I wouldn’t pay for college if my kid was going to get into that stuff” sounds straight out of the 1950s.
I know plenty of people who are into a bit of woo who are perfectly capable of critical thinking and getting an education. And frankly, religious training used to be a much more universal part of a typical education than it is now. Do you really think none of those generations people learned anything, Tom?
I really don’t understand this attitude that to consider yourself a “rationalist,” any thought that doesn’t have a scientific basis must be mocked. Most of our thoughts and actions don’t have a strictly rational basis.
You want to use your religion to justify telling me how to live my life or run our government, I have a problem with that, just like I do with using a political ideology that way. But using it to decide how to live your life? That’s your business.
AH HA HA HA SOMEONE BELIEVES SOMETHING THAT I DON’T HA HA AREN’T THEY STUPID HA HA HA!
Another instance of ‘oh, it’s someone on the left who believes this, and therefore it’s okay to mock him/her mercilessly’.
I started and deleted four smart ass posts ridiculing New Age, or whatever that is. Honestly, at least it’s not Abrahamic faith. That crap poisons everything.
I have had to tolerate more of this nonsense since becoming a parent. I try not to fight with the anti-vaccers too much because it is a waste of time.
Nobody said that it’s offensive, but it is still completely absurd. At least the woo-woo crap of Christianity has the backing of 2000 years of cultural dominance. It’s understandable how so many people don’t stop and notice how utterly stupid and ridiculous it is, because they’re used to it. But this stuff doesn’t have that advantage.
Well, if I had a kid, he or she would not be allowed to attend a religious school, no matter how much the child may want to in order to “live his/her life.” In that, I can agree wholeheartedly with Tom. My parents limited my college choices to schools that had decent costs so that we could all afford it without my borrowing too much. So I would have no problem telling my hypothetical child that I would not support in any way a choice to attend a college run by any sort of religionists. Fuck that. I’m not supporting that shit. Hypothetical child can pay for it him/herself. I’m not playing.
I’m of two minds here: On the one hand I’m a self-professed atheist asshole with a deep love of the scientific method. On the other… I’m a guy who had to turn down college straight out of highschool because my parents COULDN’T pay for my college even though the EFC formula insisted they had to (while ignoring financially crippling costs due to my mother having MS). Not surprisingly these same minds are both saying “I can see your point” and “fuck you too”.
Given the fact I start up at my local university next fall I think I’m leaning more towards to the second opinion. What this letter writer wants and is doing is harmless, and there’s a hell of a lot worse they could do.
But hey, if you’d rather be an ass and force your child into a life of manual labor and 2nd class income their whole life because you’re more concerned with them having the proper level of critical thinking by all means do so. Just don’t be surprised if they end up hating you for it.
Did you talk to the financial aid office? Someone in this situation can request a special circumstances review that can take into account things like high medical costs in the household. I am often using professional judgment to modify a student’s EFC with a good reason and sufficient documentation. It can take some time and effort but it’s a fairly common thing. Just finished one for a student whose father passed away just as classes began.
Tom, due respect, but I think you need to give this spiritual young person the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like s/he asked the University Provost about the meeting times of the Young Republicans or Campus Conservatives or the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Who cares? At least it isn’t a BDSM death cult.
@elmo: Fuck you. Of course it was Brown. Those brown kids get to do their whole degree pass/fail/stoned.
ditto, and thanks.
The sage smudging is pretty damn common up here in the Pacific NW, even among the highly unreligious. For one thing, it’s solid Native tradition (and we’re on their soil). I smudge regularly and I’m episcopalian — and neither of these things in any way diminishes my critical thinking skills or intellectual ability. Sorry, Tom, but you’re way off on this one.
I know of several religious institutions in my area whose adherents eat the body of and drink the blood of their deity. Whoa.
Suppose the student left out the “spiritual” aspect and opted instead to call this a daily exercise
designed to relax and focus the mind in order to produce the mental clarity necessary
to excel in academic endeavors and other personal goals?
Would that be acceptable?
By the way, most so-called woo is exactly that, with a little magical window dressing.
Because no one has ever done or believed in anything silly as a youth and amounted to much later. Sheesh, Tom, get a grip.
@geg6: I wasn’t talking about a religious school, I was talking about Tom’s assertion that the kid couldn’t possibly have “the critical thinking that makes all else in education possible” until he/she “dug out.” Huge numbers of the giants in various fields of rational thought went to universities in time periods when religion was required. Does anyone think they weren’t capable of critical thinking, or that they secretly became atheists before education was possible? Of course not.
Yeah, parents get some say in their kids’ college because they’re paying for it. Ones who decide that what their kid explores on his/her own time somehow renders him/her incapable of rational thought are assholes, not rationalists.
Judging by the white sage and the use of the term ‘smudging,’ this person is a Pagan and a member of my religion (I might own sage and have done my fair share of smudging to create sacred space as well).
I know it must seem weird, but really, when you look at them, all religions are pretty weird. This kid is basically asking for a place to observe his/her religion, and who can begrudge that?
When I was in college, I didn’t feel welcome in the chapel, so I practiced my faith in a forest grove by the railroad tracks, about half a mile off campus (we do a lot of religious observance outdoors). I realize now that probably wasn’t the safest thing to do, so I hope this kid finds a safe place on campus.
Post in moderation for no reason I can fathom.
Can a front-pager get it released from purgatory please?
When exactly was BJ taken over by New Atheist Zealots?
Levenson, maybe if you weren’t so insecure about your own beliefs or lack thereof, you wouldn’t find it necessary to mock this youngster who is doing what youngsters ought to be doing: Exploring the world and having experiences and trying on different identities and belief systems.
Are you concerned that this young person may actually be getting something out of this ritual even though you don’t understand it?
Why not just let it be? Is he or she hurting someone?
What are you so afraid of?
If you pay attention you will notice that Levenson does this a lot. It is very important to him that he let us know how above all that “woo” he is because he is an MIT prof or something something and there are no smarter persons in the whole wide world of something something also too.
He does post great art though.
Dare we mention that Isaac Newton came up with physics and calculus while he was researching his more important studies in alchemy and predicting the Rapture?
@geg6: I’ll be the first to admit that my first go at college was a colossal failure on my part. Poor planning, an unwillingness to seek help, and the held I did did get was from well-intentioned but (as I now know) largely clueless parents. Hindsight beingw hat it is I feel confident that my current go-round should go better.
Judas Escargot, Acerbic Prophet of the Mighty Potato God
Not sure if I see the great offense here, either. IMO, silliness is kind of intrinsic to any spiritual belief, isn’t it? (Credo quia absurdum est and all that). It’s when the religious stop minding their own damned business that I start to get surly.
Living in Salem, you get exposed to a lot of new-agey/pagan/witchy types. I’d take their company over that of a crazy right-wing radical fundie any day of the week.
(Says the atheist who collects Tarot decks, meditates, and consults the I Ching a few times a year… and also has an imaginary Potato God).
Yes, yes. Calling it spirituality or religion magically shields your utterly nonsensical beliefs from criticism, instantly turning that hoo-ha SACRED!tm while turning said critic into a filthy and intolerant villain.
Tom Levenson, History’s Greatest Monster.
I’d bet on Reed. Or Hampshire.
Winner plays the winner of the other semifinal, which pits the Furman Paladins agains the Canisius Golden Gryphons.
ETA: UC Irvine lost in the quarterfinals. No zot for you.
@geg6: 2nded. I’m also a financial aid counselor and professional judgement petitions for things like medical costs are routine. You will need to do one each year you attend and the earlier you do it, the more aid the school will have left to help you with. You can file January 1st for the next fall. The earlier you and your parents do their taxes the better too.
Tom, I think you need to see this, or if you’ve seen it before, get a refresher:
Phil Plait – Don’t Be A Dick
I think skeptics today spend far too much time poking at harmless New Age “woo” and not near enough time poking at fundie Christian faith healers, televangelists collecting money to pay for their Rolls Royces, stadium-sized “prayer vigils” run by state governors to ask God to make rain or deflect hurricanes, and all the sordid crap like Todd Akin’s theory of rape auto-rejection, which itself is just a tip of the crazy iceberg of wingnut fundie beliefs. Why doesn’t the Randi foundation go after those guys, who are causing vastly more harm to the body politic – and the the cause of rationality – then any number of New Agers smudging crystals. Who aren’t harming anyone, or bilking anyone out of their life savings or their social security checks. And most of them are quite comfortable with a Universe billions of years old, scientific advancement in general, especially in computer and clean power technology, and liberalism with a libertarian streak. They believe in a secular government. They might err on the side of the firebaggers in politics, but what the hell…
In fact, that college student could be warming up to a formal complaint against the university for unequal religious accommodation; violating laws that the fundies themselves wanted, and it’s nice when they get hoisted on those laws themselves. (Like the Pagans who demanded that they get to distribute books on Paganism in the local high school if the Gideon Society gets to give away free Bibles.) If the Catholic students get special areas to practice their vampire cannibal rituals, other students should get a space to smudge their damn crystals if they ask for it. This is valuable pushback against the insidious ways Christian Dominionists and their ilk keep trying to normalize their theology, to make America into their dream of a “Christian Nation”.
The silliness isn’t wanting to practice your particular brand of woo, but in asking permission. Have things changed so much that burning incense and “incense” doesn’t happen in dorm rooms anymore? If a bigger fire is needed, one can always get a hibachi. And if a bonfire is really required you’re out of luck. Anyway, far better to practice your rituals and then complain about official interference if it arrives.
@Strangepork: “Holding up for ridicule” is not the same as valid criticism. That wasn’t critical analysis, that was being a dick, sneering dismissal with extra snark. The only justification offered being that some kind of danger to science education and society itself looms ahead on a path to imminent disaster, due to some kids meditating on crystals in college. Kick ’em all out, they’re worthless.
And it’s right that Tom get called on it. Not that he’s a monster, but that in this post he comes off as a dick, picking on someone less powerful in the world of academia, merely for the sheer joy of being a dick. That’s called “bullying.”
Save it for telling drunken stories around the hotel bar at Skepticon.
@Retief: Actually, I’m betting that the university has a campus-wide ban on smoking, or is about to implement one, so special permission would be necessary. Or the student(s) went out and tried it and got complaints.
And like I say, it might be the beginning of a test case. I notice that Tom doesn’t provide a link to the source, so we can’t find out any details. A search for “Evergreen University” + smudging doesn’t pull up much, nothing relevant.
That’s the problem with a lack of proper citations. We don’t know the context. Which is odd because skeptics are usually pretty good about that. (But posting that kind of actual data might distract Tom from his recreational giggling.)
Grown people with otherwise solid lives perform this ritual, derived, I believe, from native American sources. Shame on you for mocking. I actually bought the equipment for it at a friend’s behest, but never got around to trying it. Yet … and I am a 66 year
old ex hippie and ex corporate lawyer, too.
@Joe Max: Well, it’s like the PETA people — they’re brave enough to throw fake blood at women in fur coats, but you don’t see them haranging guys at the biker bar about their leathers.
It’s easy to make fun of a teenager earnestly demanding attention for non-standard religious behavior like smudging. But us Reality-Based Community people are so inured to the attention-seeking rituals of the majoritarian cults of the Abrahamic tradition, it’s hard to feel “original” mocking them.
Even if one is not a person of faith, I’d say the kid who wrote that email probably deserves some credit for at least searching for something to believe in, rather than taking the easy path of seeing whatever’s popular among this year’s authoritarians and amping it up to eleven. (Yes, Ross Doubthat, I’m talking about you.)
@gvg: gvg, you’re a good egg. and geg6 — there is no shame in working what is available. you’ll still have to do the school work and other work, but make sure you know about and go for other funds, too.
I know it’s an old thread, but dude! My parents refused to support me if I chose any major that wasn’t practical, which in practical terms meant any degree that wouldn’t get me hired at the paper mill where my ol’ man worked. Now, I’m 50, with a degree in mechanical engineering, a subject I despise, and a big, fat, tear-stained hole where my life’s work should have been. Imagine how it feels for me to see a kid that helped with his homework get tenure at a major school. Good times, sir, good times!
Parents that hurt their children’s actual lives because of an idea are just assholes. It doesn’t matter how noble that idea seems to you, they’re still assholes and should be treated accordingly — with extreme contempt.
It’s only funny if it’s true. But it sounds to me like so many friend-of-a-friend pieces that get passed around on the internet that I’m inclined to disbelieve it as just another “fact” too good to be checked.
It’s not okay to make up horrid examples to reinforce your own beliefs.
I have a lot of sympathy for this individual. When I was a freshman at college I was forced to spend the better part of two days to get my incense returned. As a Buddhist there was no shrine on campus so I made my own small one in my room. In order to be complete it needed some incense displayed (not lit). When my room was inspected they took the entire shrine, Buddha statue in all.
It took the threat of a law suit to get my stuff back. Mock all you want but all this person wanted was equal treatment from the school.
Can’t say it’s worse than kneeling before a horrific instrument of torture while performing ritualized cannibalism.
When you compare this woo with other woo like that whole “perpetual virgin” thing when we know she had had other children, or the never cutting sideburns or wearing cotton blended with other materials thing, or the many beliefs that have multiple deities…who really cares?
Apparently this kid was told to ask permission for everything he/she wanted to do that wasn’t outlined by some official family maunal. That is more problematic for me than the actual request. Comes from a very authoritarian situation I’m guessing.