A new revelation formulated by Mark Burrish '02, and brought to my attention by his roommate, Nate Allard '02, goes as follows: On the University campus, it is better to be a squirrel than a student.
Absolute truth is nonexistent, so why keep searching? Lectures, precepts, the Whig Hall Senate Chamber and the 'Prince' opinion page are littered with the same old unanswerable questions: Does God exist? Should we raise interest rates? Who killed Kennedy? What is that ugly gray monorail in front of the new campus center? After discussing questions such as these, we say to ourselves, "Wow, that was interesting." Interesting? Is that all we have to say about our academic experience, that it's interesting?
Intellectual activity, it seems, isn't a lofty, truth-seeking endeavor, but rather a physical "exercise for the brain," as Nick Ordway '02 once put it. People describe thesis-writing in the way that I would describe a five-mile run: "It was a painful task, but I'm happy now that it's over." In this sense, a philosophy paper, or even a Woody Woo essay, produces no greater good than a workout at Dillon Gym.
Princeton squirrels reject not only the futile search for knowledge that surrounds them, but other human hindrances as well. Squirrels don't have to get their computers fixed or worry about room draw. They don't have to worry about ethics or social graces — they can cheat on their mates and chew with their mouths open. Stephanie Obodda '02 says, "I'm always jealous of squirrels because they get free earrings," referring to the tags that Princeton biology researchers use to mark their furry test subjects. Are you feeling unpopular? Last week I saw four Japanese tourists taking a picture of the same squirrel. Are you bothered by the banning of the Nude Olympics and Princeton's abundance of girls that wear clothes? Become a squirrel and these problems disappear.
Of course, squirrels aren't completely intellectually indifferent. During EEB 311: Animal Behavior, squirrels can be seen rolling in the aisles with laughter. In Peter Singer's class, squirrels sit in the front row and give standing ovations at every lecture. For the most part, however, they spend their time doing what's required for the survival of the species: sleeping, eating and having sex with other squirrels. These three activities, as you might notice, are our favorite pastimes, yet at Princeton they are continually sacrificed to problem sets, PUDS and inhibitions/morals, respectively, things that squirrels lack.
Here's a personal example: Last year I was walking by Little Hall late at night, and I really had to go to the bathroom. I sprinted around looking for a place to piss, and I finally settled on a location behind a bush between Little and Blair Halls. I told this story to my friends, and they had a laugh at my expense.
Consider a similar example from a squirrel's life. On January 10, 2000, a squirrel really had to go to the bathroom. He had the appealing and quite liberating option of peeing on the ground where he stood. (In human society, I would like to note, peeing outside in full view is frowned upon.) But this squirrel decided to take his freedom one step further and enter the dorm room of Liz Lapetina '02 and urinated on her computer. Rather than suffer through the ridicule of his friends, this squirrel instead will undoubtedly go down as the King Arthur of Princeton squirrel lore, immortalized forever in a Feb. 4 'Prince' article. The article implied that Lapetina spent much of her next few days fixing her computer and writing a politics paper, but neglected to mention that the squirrel spent the next few days eating nuts, sleeping until noon and continuing to urinate wherever he pleased.
I apologize to biologists if I, as a lay observer, have misinterpreted the lives of squirrels, and to my parents and professors, who have poured money and time into my education and might think I seem ungrateful, which I am not. I will tell them that this revelation has appeared before in several forms, from British writer Thomas Gray's 1742 proclamation that "If ignorance is bliss, 'Tis folly to be wise" to the Triangle Club's song from "101 Damnations" entitled "Happy to be a Dog."
Our lives are short, and the search for happiness is a pretty damn important thing. So I'll see you all at room draw. I'm aiming to draw the tree in front of Nassau Hall. Zach Pincus-Roth is from Chevy Chase, Md. He can be reached at email@example.com.