Jonathan Iwry | Turn down for what, exactly?

The Quaking Point | Enjoy Fling, but save some Banker’s for the rest of the year

· April 9, 2014, 7:01 pm   ·  Updated April 10, 2014, 4:12 pm

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It’s that time of year again.

This weekend, students of all shapes and sizes come together to drink, party and gallivant for a few precious days. We offer sleep and brain cells as tribute to the gods. Freshman and senior pass out together as equals. Drink a highball to the best and brightest.

Yes, Fling is in the air. Save that one girl at Guetta who will be screaming her lungs out — not to mention your eardrums — everything will hopefully be going our way. For all intents and purposes, all is right in the universe.

But as our communal rites draw near, it’s hard not to wonder why the joy of Fling is so elusive — why it’s so difficult to distill that sense of fun and freedom throughout the academic year.

Some places succeed at keeping the volume loud year round. Literally. So loud, in fact, that one contemplates calling the police and busting that party across the street in hopes of a single good night’s sleep before that upcoming exam.

Others cannot help but absorb the Flingery with a hint of disdain. Is this really becoming of the Ivy League? We pay thousands of dollars for an elite education bragging rites, and these ungrateful hedonists blow it away (some take that more literally than others) without a second impaired thought.

There is definitely something funny about the excitement that surrounds Fling. While every school has its big celebration, ours almost seems like a purge — a campus wide get-out-of-jail card for hardworking overachievers in which anything goes and excess is lauded. For one weekend, we throw our neuroses to the wind. Come Monday, we will return sluggishly to the routine and overwhelming demands of Ivy League life.

People often are either working too hard or playing too hard. Some students are all about going out, and they struggle to hold a conversation beyond describing what they did the night before. Others lose themselves to the academic routine and the job grind; a fair number of them even fail to make what they study matter outside the classroom.

On the one hand, we really ought to take our studies seriously. There is too much to be learned, too many opportunities to be gained, for us to drink and sleep away these eight precious semesters. And we shouldn’t feel ashamed of our intelligence, either.

That said, a life lacking in enjoyment hardly strikes me as a life worth living. Our undergraduate years are about growing up, of which intellectual development is only one component. We should be having fun frequently and in moderation. While indulging is healthy from time to time, we shouldn’t need to rely on a purging period to escape an overwhelming work life. College is just as much about social experiences as it is academics.

Being successful is great. But sometimes, simply being is what we need.

I’m not complaining that I can’t have a Marxist debate at a frat party. I only mean to point out that our school isn’t quite as balanced as it would like to think.

What would be a good model for reconciling work and play? Friedrich Nietzsche describes human culture through the tension between Apollo, the Greek sun god and Dionysus, the god of wine and disinhibition. The former embodies reason and logic, the latter emotion and raw experience. Most of us live our lives somewhere between these two extremes, but circumstance and habit push us further to one side from time to time. Our goal should be to incorporate both into our experience of the world and keep them in healthy moderation.

We should make the most of our time at Penn in all respects, and that means committing ourselves to the dual priorities of work and play. Let’s not forget to live, as long as we can live with purpose.

It’s not easy to do, but I’d like to think that students at the social Ivy can strike a healthy balance of curiosity, ambition and fun — and that includes debauchery.

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