Category Archives: Opinion

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Book review: ‘Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere’ by Poe Ballantine disappoints, exploits

By Sammie Hill–

Enticed by the title and the fact that Cheryl Strayed wrote the introduction, I decided to purchase Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere on iTunes and read it on my phone, since both Barnes and Nobles in Louisville didn’t have it in stock.

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere, advertised as a memoir entwined with a true crime story, chronicles the author’s life in small-town Nebraska, where a startling and mysterious death prompts Ballantine to launch an investigation of his own into the case.

Though he has settled down with a wife and child in the small town of Chadron, Ballantine recounts his earlier days spent as a restless drifter, a failed writer, a bright but unmotivated student and a suicidal vagabond. The now settled down Ballantine, intrigued by the death of his community member and in need of a topic for his new book, strives to solve the case himself while reflecting on the experiences of his own life.

I finished the book in one day. I didn’t want to stop reading it for two reasons: because I wanted so badly to like it, and because I wanted to see the case solved. However, I finished the book with a sense of disappointment.

Although at times I felt enchanted by Ballantine’s language, I also found myself put off by his egocentricity and tendency to cycle through the same repetitive information. I kept hoping his book would amount to something, that I would feel satisfied after flipping through 656 pages on my phone, that the book would move me and blow my mind and break my heart. But it didn’t.

Ballantine decided to write this book before he even began investigating the case. He then invested time and effort into his amateur investigation, and he wanted to sell a book as a result.

However, there just wasn’t enough about the case to generate an entire book, and it seems as though Ballantine fused the genres of memoir and true crime because neither one would be substantial enough to stand on its own. Together, however, they just didn’t make a lot of sense, and left me wondering what his purpose was in writing the book at all.

Ballantine’s stories of his past, while diverse and intriguing, didn’t seem to tell me much about him. He tell us he was restless; he tells us he was suicidal; he tells us he’s lived in a thousand different places, moving around every few months because of self-loathing and an unwillingness to settle down. But for some reason, I still never got the sense that he was writing with true vulnerability, with raw honesty. He claims throughout the book that people found him difficult to trust, and I can see why.

Though he claims to be self-loathing, his stories always seem to paint him in a positive light. For example, one day he takes his son to the park, and his wife—depicted as cold, confused and incomplete throughout the book—insists on leaving after 20 minutes, but Ballantine refuses, and he and his son stay while she leaves “without a word.” His son can’t sleep one night because of a cough, so Ballantine decides to give the five year old a mixture of Bailey’s Irish Cream and ibuprofen; when his wife objects, he portrays her as rash and over-dramatic for being concerned about this home remedy, while he smugly points out that his son woke up feeling uncharacteristically refreshed and well-rested the next day.

Meanwhile, for only about the last half of the book, Ballantine interjects information about the case he is investigating. The case, morbidly fascinating due to the circumstances of the man’s death, kept me reading after I had tired of Ballantine’s thinly veiled endeavor to convince the audience of his strong character.

However, Ballantine’s inclusion of the case in his book is exploitative. He investigated the death of a virtual stranger, revealed intimate details of the man’s life and gruesome details of his death, and published a book about it against the wishes of the family of the deceased.

Ballantine challenges the family’s conclusions about the man’s death, suggesting that it was a murder rather than a suicide. He cycles through the same evidence and same theories that serve only to re-open the family’s wounds and to sell the book. To give favor to his own theory, Ballantine belittles the deceased man’s struggle with depression—in fact, he trivializes the concept of mental disorders in general.

Ballantine’s book, and the documentary based on it, continues to bring up this tragedy, prohibiting the family from attaining a sense of closure. Ballantine criticizes the family for not wanting to find out the truth, while the family—who actually knew and loved the deceased man, unlike Ballantine—insists that they know all there is to know, and just wants to put the tragedy behind them.

They want their loved one to be remembered for his life instead of for a sensationalized story of his death, told by someone who never even knew him.

After I had gotten into the book a little bit, I considered including it in my “Best books to read in college” column. Ballantine has talent as a writer, some of his experiences would enthrall college students, and his autistic son Tom is cool as hell.

However, after I reached the inadequate ending and read online about Ballantine’s decision to pursue the case and publish the book against the family’s wishes, telling the story in a way that interferes with their sense of closure, I abandoned that idea.

Yes, Ballantine has a right to tell the story of the man’s death, but if you ask me—and the family—it is not his story to tell.

The book as a whole almost seems purposeless except to convince Ballantine of his own insight and importance. Thus, while he did impress me as a writer, I would not recommend this book to others out of respect for the family of the deceased, and because of the overwhelming sense of disappointment with which it ultimately left me.

 Photo courtesy of vimeo.com

For those interested, this comment thread includes a discussion among members of the deceased man’s family and Ballantine himself: http://hawthornebooks.com/blog/article/poe-ballantine-on-the-documentary-love-terror-on-the-howling-plains-of-nowh

Best books to read in college: ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling

By Sammie Hill–

On the surface, The Casual Vacancy tells a fairly simple story. Following the death of a beloved city councilman, the small English town of Pagford must recover from their loss and elect a new city council member. However, what J.K Rowling truly creates in her first adult novel is an examination of what it means to be human.

Addressing issues such as class, self-harm, rape, politics, abuse and more, The Casual Vacancy introduces its audience to a multitude of characters, from high school students to a drug-addicted single mother. Throughout the novel, Rowling exposes these characters’ thoughts, emotions, secrets, aspirations, doubts and more as they strive to heal from their town’s loss, fill the city council seat, and navigate their way through every day life.

Solidifying her status as a masterful storyteller, Rowling engages and intrigues her audience from start to finish. While the novel may not feature magic in its plot, magic nevertheless resonates from Rowling’s words, her empathetic exploration of human nature, as well as the characters and community she creates.

The Casual Vacancy reveals that every individual becomes who he or she is for a reason. The decisions people make and the behaviors they exhibit stem from their experiences, their desires, their fears and their insecurities. Rowling reminds us that everyone—from promiscuous teenage girls to successful, coveted doctors—has an important story to tell.

The depth of the novel’s characters reflects the complexity of all human beings; for example, we learn that Krystal, a high school student we initially judge as obnoxious and confrontational, basically assumes the role of parent when she goes home, protecting and caring for her little brother in an otherwise neglectful environment. Parminder, the beautiful doctor and object of envy from other women in the town, fails to recognize her own daughter’s cries for help and need for parental acceptance. Thus, Rowling demonstrates that people consist of so much more than we initially realize.

As college students, we often pass judgment on our peers, simplifying people into narrow labels such as “slut,” “nerd,” “prep,” “queer,” etc. However, The Casual Vacancy refutes the idea that people are that simple.

Instead, the novel reveals that people are complex, the culmination of everything that has happened to them throughout their lives, shaped by experiences and sorrows and accomplishments and mistakes. The Casual Vacancy shows us that no matter what path people choose to take in life, every human being matters.

Thus, this novel not only bewitches audiences with its captivating plot, complex characters and exploration of sensitive issues, but also instills in its readers a sense of compassion that promotes kindness rather than callousness, empathy rather than hostility, and understanding rather than judgment.

 

Image courtesy of utsvertigo.com.au

Letter to the Editor: Response to “University not a business” editorial

Dear editor,

Your March 25th editorial regarding the negotiated confidentiality agreements with three long time, dedicated University of Louisville employees lacked some logic and key facts. The “story of closed doors and dark secrets” portrayed in your editorial and the Courier-Journal story might make a good piece of fiction, but was not a good true to life story. So here are some facts:

  • Agreements similar to the ones reached with these three employees are routine in the business world and at many universities. Yes, UofL should be run like a business.
  • All three were in sensitive positions that required discretion and confidentiality on matters such as university negotiations on land purchases, contracts, investments and personnel. The university and the employees agreed to extend that confidentiality beyond their retirement date for, I believe, obvious reasons.
  • Two vice-presidents’ jobs are being merged into one and the president’s administrative assistant has not been replaced, resulting in savings to the university – part of the $7.5 million UofL expects to save from the voluntary separation incentive program (VSIP).
  • Lawyers drafted the agreements and told UofL administrators there had to be some “consideration” to the retiring employees in return for signing confidentiality agreements.
  • The University of Louisville Foundation (private funds) covered the costs of all voluntary separation agreements with UofL staff including the three named employees.

This was a prudent business decision by UofL administrators as well as a logical decision by three employees who wanted to retire, not some underhanded “payoff” portrayed by your editorial.

Mark Hebert

Director, Media Relations

University of Louisville

 

Photo by Olivia Krauth/The Louisville Cardinal

Why I’m not enrolling in the Affordable Care Act

By Stewart Lewis–

A deadline approaches – not a school deadline, but the deadline to comply with the Affordable Care Act. I will not meet this deadline, because I don’t want to comply.

I recently reached the magic year that boots me from my family’s health insurance coverage; the law mandates I must enroll through either the federal or Kentucky’s healthcare exchanges. If I don’t, I face a $95 penalty – or as the architects of ObamaCare call it, a “shared responsibility fee” – on my federal income taxes next year.

Lawmakers’ and bureaucrats’ fear that people like me will not join because I’m a “young invincible” is well founded. Being part of a demographic whose participation is crucial to this law working, I don’t see a benefit to my participating.

Another reason I am not going to comply is that I know people who have been in a similar healthcare system. And they hate it.

One friend, whom I won’t name because of active service in the US Army, had a cavity. The bureaucracy associated with his plan took 18 months before his cavity could be addressed. Every service member is required to buy his or her plan through the federal government exchange. Sound familiar? The Department of Defense makes certain requirements limiting or mandating a doctor or dentist appointment.

My friend’s situation reminds me of a scene from the 1995 movie “Canadian Bacon.” An American wakes up in a Canadian hospital. The nurses, or “Candy Stripers,” inform her “their universal health care system has determined that you don’t actually need a doctor until…2006.”

A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that 86 percent of Americans between 25-64 don’t have a grasp on the Affordable Care Act and have no fundamental concept of health insurance to begin with. Maybe the American public should have gotten to read the bill before it was passed.

I expect the number of people who don’t have a grasp on the Affordable Care Act to increase drastically with the Obama administration changing their “firm” deadline again last week, another example of this administration moving the goal post, and redefining the “success” of this law.

Since the launch of Kynect, Kentucky’s state exchange 321,932 Kentuckians have enrolled.  This sounds like an impressive number; however only 64,455 have purchased private insurance through the exchange, leaving 257,477 Kentuckians who qualified for Medicaid. Under ObamaCare, the number of Kentuckians who were forced off of health plans they liked is 280,000.

There’s an old saying that a poor plan will yield poor results. So far, this is clearly the case in Kentucky. And to think the national media was touting Kynect’s success when it was launched.  If this is an example of success, I will be staying as far away from it as I can, because I am invincible.

 

Photo courtesy of downeyobesityreport.com

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Best books to read in college: ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

By Sammie Hill–

Cheryl Strayed is a badass.

At only 26, she had endured hardships that broke her to the core. She had suffered loss, tasted pain and futilely grasped for an escape from her grief. She then proceeded to undertake a solo 1,100-mile hike through the Pacific Crest Trail, and recount it in her inspirational, humorous and moving memoir, Wild.

Four years before her hike, Strayed lost her mother suddenly and mercilessly to cancer. This event incited a subsequent series of losses and hardships for Strayed as she struggled with grief, anger, regret and, ultimately, a heart ravaged and ripped apart. Attempts to silence her pain crippled her relationship with her husband, leading to divorce and nearly to her self-destruction.

However, to save herself from such a fate, she decided to hike from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—alone.

Strayed sought to climb out of the grief that had devoured her following her mother’s death—grief that she expresses with devastating and beautiful writing.

For example, Strayed writes of her mother’s death, “I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I’d wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that what she had done was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her, but utterly alone.”

Despite the crushing weight of all she carried with her, Strayed kept walking for over 1,000 miles of the PCT. She pushed on, step after step, because she had to. That was her only option, she realized. In order to get to where she was meant to be, she had to keep going.

Throughout this journey, Strayed finally finds what she was searching for—not an escape from her pain, but the ability to heal from it.

As college students, some of us are no stranger to suffering, while others have yet to explore its depths. Regardless, we can all learn from Strayed’s journey and the insight she offers throughout Wild.

Strayed bravely reveals the darkest details of her past and confronts life’s cruelties with honesty, humor, wit and strength. She opens her life up to us so that we may recognize in her our own grief, our own pain, our own regrets and our own hope for redemption.

As Strayed walks toward acceptance, forgiveness and the ability to heal, we feel as though we are right beside her, confronting our own darkest moments and learning to carry on.

Wild show us that no matter what we encounter on our path through life, we must keep walking. No matter how heavy the burdens we carry become, we must keep going. No matter how crushing our grief, maddening our regret, or deep our wounds, we continue on, step after step, heading towards the place we are meant to be.

 

Photo courtesy of utzling.blogspot.com 

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Kentucky Democrats avoid sexual harassment scandal

By Stewart Lewis–

House Bill 378, which is on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives, would require training to prevent harassment in the legislative workplace. This bill sounds great: how can you be against the prevention of harassment, specifically sexual harassment in the workplace? Representative Jeff Donohue (D-Louisville) and the rest of the House Democrats, however, are trying to put a band-aid on a bullet wound in an attempt to save face with constituents over the fallout from the John Arnold scandal.

Allegations surfaced publicly last summer that former Rep. John Arnold, a Democrat from Sturgis, Ky., sexually “harassed” three female employees of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC). Arnold resigned, and a committee was formed to investigate the allegations of his sexual harassment. Shortly afterward, Arnold issued a statement saying he did not harass these women, and I agree.

According to the women’s allegations, Arnold did not harass them; he assaulted them. To put it bluntly, sexual harassment would be Arnold telling an inappropriate, suggestive joke in the office. Sexual assault is something more along the lines of putting your hands up a woman’s skirt and saying something like “I could just not resist grabbing those fancy red lace panties.” Chew that quote around in your brain for a minute. Arnold is alleged to have actually said that.

The committee charged with investigating the allegations consisted of three men: Reps. Donohue, Robert Benvenuti (R – Lexington) and Arnold Simpson (D – Covington), and two women: Rita Smart (D – Richmond) and Julie Raque Adams (R – Louisville). Two of the members tried at each meeting to accomplish something, while three constantly tried to impede progress.

After four months, without examining any witnesses or looking at a single piece of evidence, the group voted three-to-two that there was nothing they could do to Arnold since he had resigned. Would you assume that the women would want to seek justice against this sexual predator? You’d be half right, if you made that assumption. However, the group voted to disband along party lines, meaning that Rita Smart, Jeff Donohue and Arnold Simpson, the Democrats of the committee, wanted to brush this under the rug – forgive and forget.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic frontrunner for this year’s Senate campaign, held a recent campaign event in Louisville where she showcased former President Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton.

Actions speak louder than words, and Kentucky Democrats will say whatever they think will get a particular demographics’ vote. Kentucky Democrats will appeal to women with hollow words, but then they put Bill Clinton in the spotlight and vote along partisan lines to prematurely disband a committee investigating sexual assault. Kentucky’s elected and campaigning Democrats don’t seem to stand behind what they preach about: having the best interests of women in mind.

Their hypocrisy is a bad example to provide to the citizens of the Commonwealth, and it is abundantly clear that House Bill 378, sponsored by Donohue, is too little, too late. Maybe an amendment to HB378 should include a provision that the legislature must meet with South Park’s “Sexual Harassment Panda.”

Photo courtesy of wfpl.org

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Best books to read in college: “The Beautiful and Damned”

By Sammie Hill–

 

Often overshadowed by “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s earlier novel, “The Beautiful and Damned,” is, in my opinion, his best work. Focusing on the relationship between Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert, “The Beautiful and Damned” examines the fleeting nature of beauty, youth, and love.

 

Anthony and Gloria fall in love as young adults in New York City. They spend their days indulging in the activities of the young and wealthy, and Fitzgerald propels us into their world of endless booze, extravagant parties, outrageous escapades and limitless wealth. They’re young, they’re rich, they’re beautiful, and they’re free. But are they happy?

 

While their reckless and carefree lifestyle seems blissful, throughout the novel we realize that Anthony and Gloria engage in these activities to distract themselves from reality. Anthony struggles with his career and with the emptiness he feels at the core of his being. He searches for meaning in a seemingly hopeless world, and he tries to numb his feelings of futility and despair with bourbon and benders, to no avail.

 

Gloria, who bases her self-worth almost entirely on her outward beauty, dreads the idea of growing older. She runs from reality in hopes of avoiding the inevitable.

 

Thus, while Anthony and Gloria appear to be the embodiment of the American dream, in reality they are slowly disintegrating.

 

Fitzgerald exposes their façade of freedom; we realize that in reality, they are slaves to their fears, their anxieties, and their desire for the superficial satisfactions of life. They appear to have it all, but their happiness, based on money, beauty, and popularity, does not last. Their love fades with their youth, as does their vitality.

 

By contrasting the enticing ecstasy of intoxication with the sobering loneliness of reality, Fitzgerald’s gift for depicting the disenchanting nature of life shines in this novel. For example, these characters begin their adult lives with enthusiasm and promise, but, over time, become damaged by the world. Their marriage, once saturated in love, ends in hatred. Anthony and Gloria chase the illusion of happiness, but they end up broken and bitter.

 

They must discover the fleeting nature of everything they consider important. In the novel, Fitzgerald confronts this ephemeral nature of life, saying, “Beautiful things grow to a certain height and then they fail and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay.”

 

College students can benefit from reading this book, for the college lifestyle mirrors the lifestyle of Anthony and Gloria’s in many ways. Wild parties complete with kegs, drugs, and beautiful people with an affinity for overindulgence often acts as an enticing lifestyle for students. Seeking an escape from the anxiety and pressure that comes along with being young adults, many students shirk responsibilities, lose themselves in weekend benders and engage in reckless behavior in the hopes that it will bring them happiness.

 

This lifestyle can seem attractive; however, “The Beautiful and Damned” reveals that these superficial parts of life don’t last, running from reality doesn’t result in happiness, and the crazy lifestyle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

Overall, “The Beautiful and Damned” is a universal story that everyone, especially college students in the prime of their youth, can relate to and learn from.

 

Photo courtesy of johnbarrowman.com

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What to consider before getting a pet in college

By Sammie Hill–

 

Frequently, college students living in a house or apartment have the desire to purchase a pet. Enticed by the cuteness of a puppy or driven by a craving for added companionship, many students decide to take in a pet.

 

However, students contemplating adopting a pet should consider many things before making a decision. I speak from experience, as I recently adopted a puppy. Granted, I adopted a blind puppy, so he requires more care and attention than other dogs. However, the demands of being a pet owner and U of L student at the same time have taught me lessons that any student considering getting a pet could benefit from.

 

First and foremost, students should determine which type of pet they would like to adopt. Different pets come with various levels of maintenance and specific needs. Many students opt for low maintenance pets such as fish or lizards. Some decide to adopt cats, which require relatively low maintenance, as they are independent and use a litter box. Other students decide to adopt dogs, which require more care and attention, especially if they have not yet been housebroken.

 

Students should also consider whether they are financially able to support a pet. The cost of owning a pet greatly varies depending on the type of animal students wish to adopt. For example, owning a dog requires purchases including food, treats, toys, visits to the vet, a dog bed or kennel, and more. Owning a fish, on the other hand, would likely entail few expenses other than food and the initial cost of the tank.

 

Along with having the financial means, students should also consider the amount of time they have available to devote to caring for the pet. A student who attends three classes a day and then works the evening shift at his or her job probably lacks the adequate amount of time to feed, let out, and play with a dog; however, they could be a wonderful owner to a more low maintenance pet, such as a lizard, rabbit, or hedgehog.

 

Having a puppy has fiercely tested my time management skills; balancing the responsibility of owning a dog with school, work, volunteering, and hanging out with friends has presented a challenge. Students with demanding course loads or time-consuming jobs should probably shy away from high maintenance pets such as dogs and consider a pet requiring less of a time commitment.

 

Furthermore, if students frequently make weekend trips to visit friends at other colleges, or follow the Cards to all of their nearby away games, that should factor into their decision. A pet able to be left unsupervised for a long period of time would be more suitable for this person than one that requires more frequent care.

 

Students should also consider the age of the pet they want to adopt. A young kitten or puppy will require more attention than an older animal that has already been trained, vaccinated and housebroken.

 

By keeping these factors in mind, students will hopefully be able to determine the ideal pet for them and their lifestyle. While fun and exciting, adopting a pet should be a decision made only after thoughtful consideration. Adopting a pet means taking on the responsibility of caring for another living being, and students should ensure that they are able to supply their pet with a good quality of life.

 

Photo by Stewart Lewis/The Louisville Cardinal

Only a quarter of a century old with miles left to go

By Daniel Runnels–

Turning 25 is, for many, merely a shift in how we classify ourselves — maybe going from being a “in my early twenties” to being a “twenty- something.” Some make a deal about being a quarter of a century old or getting a reduced car insurance rate, but it is largely an uneventful mile- stone — nothing like turning 18 or 21 or 50 — super-duper old.

In one important respect, though, turning 25 is a big thing. At age 25 a U.S. citizen is eligible to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, and that is just what my high school friend Wesley Bolin is doing.

Bolin, a Murray State University student and library employee filed for candidacy as a Democrat to represent Kentucky’s first congressional district. He aims to defeat Republican Ed Whitfield who has represented the district for almost an infinity years.

What kind of 25-year-old does this? Congress is a pretty unpopular bunch these days, and Bolin surely has the odds stacked against him.

WKMS, the local public radio service, reports that no Democratic candidate in the district has earned more than 40 percent of the vote since 2000, and in 2012 Governor Romney beat President Obama by a wide margin. Furthermore, Rep. Whitfield has a lot more money and name recognition than Mr. Bolin. In short, he looks to be playing the underdog.

To be sure, he seems off to a good start. With his characteristic quick wit and sharp mind he joked about his age while announcing his candidacy. According to the Murray Ledger and Times, Bolin embraced his youth, saying “I’ve been talking to a lot of people in this district…and one thing I’m hearing is they want a fresh face. Well, nobody has a face that is fresher than mine.”

I wish Mr. Bolin the best and hope he gets the chance to represent his district in Washington. If I were still a resident of his district I would vote for him in support of his recognition that Social Security needs to be strengthened, the minimum wage needs to be increased, and all Kentuckians deserve to be treated equally under the law.

Win or lose, though, I’m so proud to know Mr. Bolin and to see him be an inspiration for us all to take risks.

Another thing that happens to a lot of people when they turn 25 is that they wonder if the dreams they once had are slipping out of reach. The world starts to look different as we get older, and even as a “twenty- something” it can look like the world is an impossible place to change.

Bolin reminds us that we ought to take risks because the world can be better. Of course, we won’t all end up running for congress, but our youthful zeal is a necessary part of this system called The World.

When I saw the news about Bolin’s candidacy, I almost immediately thought of some wise words uttered by Mafalda, a six-year-old cartoon character popular throughout Latin America: “Let’s dream, guys! It turns out that if you don’t hurry up and change the world, it’s the world that ends up changing you!”

Encouraging an outside the box education

By Daniel Runnels–

One important thing that my time at U of L has done for me has been to provoke an academic crisis of sorts. To tell the truth, I’m kind of thankful for this! It is a little sad to me that so many students pass through university institutions in four, six or eight years with precisely the same academic and career goals they started with. We’ve got to be diverse!

To be fair, most degree programs do have an interdisciplinary component that requires math students to have some basic humanities training and humanities students to know something about numbers. This is good, and in the end this makes for a more complete student.

In our quest to be well-rounded individuals, the university institution rightly encourages us to explore various disciplines and ways of viewing the world; India, classical literature and calculus are all interesting. As well as automotive technology, Japanese, music therapy and women’s studies. I like what Robert Heinlein said: “Specialization is for insects.”

Often times, in our journey to being well-rounded, we are directed towards time-tested texts and theories, as well as serious research by renowned scholars. Our interest in revered texts is warranted, but how do we engage with crazy people? Here I only partly mean crazy people who see the Virgin Mary in their burnt toast, but mostly I’m referring to people whose ideas exist on the margins of mainstream acceptability.

There is, of course, a widely held romantic view of the street corner prophet who demonizes rampant consumerism or rages against the man, but sometimes these “crazy” ideas come from even less anomalous places.

What do we do with, for example, someone like Matías de Stefano? An Argentinean Indigo child who claims to remember (in great detail) past lives and “historic events that have occurred before what humanity knows,” Matías is a young man who aims to bring us messages about the world from long ago. He also honors Ater Tumti and alleges that he has a connection to the lost city of Atlantis, 10,000 B.C.E.

He is articulate, good looking and humble. You can find him on YouTube and you’ll notice that he doesn’t spew wild tales at the camera like a cable news host. By all accounts he is a normal dude who just happens to speak ancient languages and transmit messages from the cosmos that the rest of us supposedly need to hear.

This seems a bit much, right? Walking across campus, I doubt that you would find many students who would put much stock in Matías’ accounts of the history of our world. Still, woven throughout his discourse are moments of depth and clarity that, if given the chance, would strike a chord with many people.

Do we allow his ideas access to our mind and soul in spite of some of the things he says to which we feel great resistance? What is one to do with a message that, at times, resonates with you and, at times, sounds too fantastical to be taken seriously?

Beauty and truth can be found just about anywhere – certainly our university courses and academic inquiries have given a lot of us great knowledge and a sense of fulfillment, but we should be willing to listen to crazy people who just might have something worth hearing.