Briana Bryant, Laura Popa, Jana Papp, Blade Barringer, Steve Hoey, Sarah, Mathias, Carla Albert, Marty Jones, Chris Manzer, Daniel Leonard, Steven Doelman, Sean Zellmer
My ancestors were alchemists and bakers, so I had low expectations when I started Ping Pong 101. The humiliation began, as I knew it would, the moment I stepped up to the field of battle and began smashing shots into the net with uncanny precision. My opponent and instructor increased the hurt by attempting to fix what vvas obviously broken, often by grabbing hold of my limbs and trying to run me through the "proper" motions. It was during one of these puppet sessions, as my arm vvas being jerked around in a motion that vvas supposed to be a counter that I realized I was angry at myself for failing a sport I cared nothing about. This is because, Like many Wheaton students, I have the bad habit of taking life entirely too seriously. The feeling of failure is even worse in the classes where I do vvant to succeed. Strangely, Ping Pong provided an answer to my perfectionistic woes.
One thing I admire about Ping Pong is that it is, in essence, a ridiculous sport but it wears that ridiculousness proudly on its sleeve. Championship matches involve two players in thigh-high shorts maneuvering a small piece of plastic with rubber paddles. It is thrilling to vvatch, and requires extreme skill, but the intensity that its devotees edges on the farcical. Nonetheless, players pour hundreds of dollars into custom blades, constrictive shorts, and days of their lives into perfecting the game. If only undergraduate Academia vvas so honest in its obession. Cramping oneself up in a study or coffee shop for hours trying to read philosophy or write a short story is on the same level as bandying plastic orbs about in short shorts. Realizing the comedy takes avvay none of the gravity of academia, but it does replace whatever pride or self-hatred the two can generate with a healthy sense of purpose.
The act of reading and writing needs to be akin to practicing Ping-Pong. Even failure provides the simple joy of using your body, and gets one step closer to what you ought to do. Shouldn't the same be true of using your mind in the academic arena? The burnouts I have experienced in college all resulted from the fact that I view being intellectual as something I have to do all the time, and perfectly. But I would never spend six hours a night on the court without giving myself a water break (not that i'd ever spend six hours on the court). If only sessions of reading Hegel were accompanied by time outs and cheerleading. Our assignments, whether they be Augstine or Avi, should be treated as seriously as any sport; which is to say, we should honor failure as much as we do success. Finding the humor in my own limits has allowed me to overcome the void of my own ping pong skills, and I believe it is equally effective for humble academic progress as well.
To get yourself in the spirit, I would suggest reading this issue of The Pub in gym shorts, with a sweat band if the spirit leads. There's certainly some tough stuff in here (two philosophy essays! Oh my!), but think of it as a challenge to stretch your brain rather than defeat it. The bottom line is that we've put a lot of work into this issue, but we'd rather see you living within your intellectual limit than collapsing while reading. Still, I think you will find it more than worth the effort. And if your ever have a hankering for a game of Ping Pong, let me know.