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Thursday, July 13, 2006
Tour Guides Rule the World (part 1)

(754 words)

Some say the history writers make history. I say it’s the tour guides. I spent the last week of June on the campus of the elite Ivy league institution, Yale University. We were part of a conference on revival and awakening and since the first great awakening has some of its origins in New Haven, CT and Yale, it served as a nice host site for the gathering.

On the last afternoon of the conference the schedule called for a presentation on “post modernism” and its implications for revival and awakening on university campuses. Having been in the class room way too long, I decided to opt for a more experiential lesson on “post-modernism.” Earlier in the week our group took a “Christian heritage” tour of the campus. We talked largely about Jonathan Edwards and a few of his protégés who helped to establish Yale as a college for training ministers. Anyhow, our tour consisted in a stop on the New Haven Green adjacent to the campus entrance as well as a walk through Jonathan Edwards Residential College culminating in a long sit in the cemetery (see photo) where Dwight Edwards is buried. Edwards was one of the early Presidents who helped to shepherd a spiritual awakening on campus. File that little “cemetery” tidbit away in your “ironic” folder and keep walking.

About midway through our quite focused (limited) tour, we intersected with another tour group coming down the opposite sidewalk. It was a mess. We didn’t stop for them to pass, nor did they stop for us to pass. We just sort of walked through each other on our different paths. The moment lodged in my mind like a splinter.

So that final day after deciding I couldn’t sit through another beautiful afternoon in that classroom listening to a lecture on postmodernity I decided to attempt an experiment in postmodernity. The colliding tours moment couldn’t escape my mind. I kept wondering what they were talking about on their tour. Here’s why. We were touring the same exact streets, buildings and landmarks, and yet I suspect our tours had little in common. Same tour, different guides, different stories. The way we are guided and the consequent story we are told will largely determine our experience of the campus.

Providence struck quickly on my walk back to my dorm room to get the official campus tour schedule. I noticed a small tour of large men forming on the sidewalk. I decided to tag along. The tour had its apparent beginning next to “Toad’s Place,” far and away the most famous bar in town. The male tour guide spoke of the Rolling Stones and other such dignitaries once playing in this bar. The guide said, “Next Stop: Yale Law School.” I decided to tag along. Walking up to one of the guys in the end of the line I inquired, “So is this an official campus tour?” “Yeah,” he replied, “We’re with the Yale Football Recruiting Camp.” Wow! I would not be disappointed. Supposedly enroute to the esteemed law school, we passed by a large museum and massive marble hall. The guide pointed out that this large building held the best dining hall on campus and the one open the latest. It didn’t take long to realize this was no ordinary tour guide. He was no less than the university’s football coach. This tour got fun fast. As we passed the massive bell tower on campus he pointed out that during reading week (finals prep) those bells played Britney Spears tunes to break the tension. We never actually got to the law school. We passed through the center of campus, stopping at a statue of one of the great former presidents of Yale. Coach told us the story of how this president was as supporter of the skulling team and that every time he was there they won. So most athletes stop by the statue and touch his foot for luck prior to their “big games.” No mention of the “book” prominently featured in the sculpture. Our tour ended with a walk by the now infamous secret society of the skulls, an imposing Athenian Temple styled building with no windows or doors. Yes, this is the site of the recent movie and its sequel, The Skulls—or something like that. And yes, both George W. Bush and John Kerry were members of this elite society. Anyhow—that was the football tour. In the next installment, I will recount the fascinating “Official Yale Tour” that happened next.

Stay tuned--you're about to see the very essence of post-modernity unfold before your very computer screen. . .
posted by John David Walt | at 7/13/2006 10:09:00 AM

 

4 Comments:

Anonymous JP said...

Holy post-modernity, Batman! Ok, I'm curious now, when's the next post?
I used to give tours while a student at the University of Tulsa and tailored the "speech" to the audience...gee, I must have been postmodern before modernity was over...
We're waiting JD!

12:18 PM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

Looking forward to your clandestine peek into postmodernity, JD. Nice blog teasing, btw.

12:36 PM EDT  
Blogger Mark said...

It better be what I think it is, or I will be very disappointed...

2:31 AM EDT  
Anonymous JP said...

JD,
Eli, mark and I are still here, don't leave us hanging!

9:28 AM EDT  

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