Norman Thomas, Princeton Class of 1905, once said: “Love for Princeton—as for our country—does not blind us to imperfections.” Thomas urges us to look at Princeton critically, because, despite our presumed love for it, there are undoubtedly imperfections here (and in the country as well, but I would need a lot more than one article to address those). Somebody found Thomas’ quote so remarkable that it is now painted on a wall on the main level of Frist, in the general vicinity of the mailboxes. It is one of 41 iconic phrases of Princeton’s past that someone, somewhere deemed deserving of immortality. Upon closer inspection, however, these walls of graffiti are ripe with examples of the very imperfections Thomas calls attention to. Thomas’ quote is the key to realizing that something is not quite right with the words on walls.
Who chose these quotes? What do they mean? What are they really doing here? Are they actually worthy of inhabiting the walls of a place as central to Princeton’s consciousness and identity as our campus center?
We should not blind ourselves to the truths hidden there. I think it’s time we took a closer look at these “quotes”, but not too close, because we might hit our noses, and those walls are made of bricks.
“The locusts sang and they were singing for me.” (Bob Dylan)
What do locusts and Bob Dylan have in common? Plague.
I know it sounds crazy, but there is more to Bob Dylan than meets the eye. He is not the innocent, goat-voiced crooner we make him out to be. If you rearrange the letters in “Bob Dylan” you may be surprised to find it spells “Babylon D”. Babylon, in Greek, means “Gate of God”. In Hebrew, it derives from the word for confusion.
Here, Bob Dylan is actually making a grim prophecy. Once we realize that the leftover “D” must be an omen of Death, it is clear that Dylan foresees a future in which a confused God, hypnotized by evil locusts, opens the gates of heavens, freeing them to plague our school.
“Clear the Track!” (Kenneth Clark)
Note the overwhelming amount of A’s, E’s, K’s and C’s. Strange that Mr. Clark would “coincidentally” use so many of the letters of his own name in his quote, is it not?
And who is Kenneth Clark anyway? A backwards Clark Kent? The opposite of Superman? That doesn’t sound like someone we should be looking up to. Why is the university proliferating his evil demands?
“If I’m not out there training, someone else is.” (Lynn Jennings)
What Lynn Jennings doesn’t tell you is that even when she is out there training, other people are also out there training still, somewhere in the world. Maybe even in China!
“The place of the idea; the idea of the place” (Toni Morrison)
This one is really scary. On the surface, these words are innocent enough. But ask yourself, “why would Toni Morrison say the same thing twice, in a different order?”
Good question. Maybe she is trying to tell us something. Maybe there are other repeated phrases embedded within her repeated phrases.
Sure enough, there are. If you rearrange the letters, not only does it say “the hot” in there twice, it also says “die pale face.” I’m not sure what “the hot” means, but it says DIE PALE FACE! Twice!!! What???
“A sense of where you are.” (John McPhee)
I know where I am. What I’m concerned about is where the rest of this sentence is.
Speaking of cryptic half-sentences…
“…thinking that frees itself of reflexive obedience to familiar signals.”
I couldn’t get much out of this one, other than that it sounds pretty devious. It turns out Randall Kennedy was a Rhodes Scholar, and as many of you probably know, Rhodes Scholars are almost always murderers.
This is not even a quote. These are just numbers. Who said these mysterious numbers?
Could it be an equation? 1746-2000 = -254. Does negative 254 have any sort of significance? The negative must mean something bad.
There are 254 counties in Texas. Kenya’s country code is 254. Kenya and Texas are both hot. Are we in store for a gruesome heatwave? Is it ever going to rain again? Should we start breeding camels to store water for us? Will we ever resort to drinking our own urine like James Franco did in that movie 127 Hours?
What was that? 127? Wait a minute…that’s half of 254!! Remember that other part of 127 Hours when James Franco had to (*spoiler alert*) cut his arm in half? Are we going to have our arms cut off?
Some will argue that the numbers simply represent the year Princeton was founded and the year Frist was opened. But it couldn’t possibly be that simple!
“It’s not just the campus memories that link us together. It’s the values we share.” (Ricardo Luna)
If you rearrange Ricardo Luna’s name, you will find the phrase Lunar Cardio.
Who works out in the moonlight besides sleepwalkers and escaped convicts? Werewolves! Just like Ricardo Luna.
He’d like to link us to campus—so he can attack us all in one place when he transforms into a hideous monster!
“Values we share?” More like “we are slaves, H.U.”
“Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can.” (Lowell Thomas)
That’s not possible.
“My identity is not singular.” (Emily Moore)
Then shouldn’t her name be Emily Moores?
“Education ought to be a gymnastic to all our powers.” (James McCosh)
To understand this one, you need some background on James McCosh. McCosh became president of the university in 1868, and he said the above quote in his inaugural address that year. McCosh was also an eminent philosopher in his time—a time still grappling with Charles Darwin’s recently published theory of evolution.
I went to Wikipedia, and she told me something startling about Mr. McCosh. Apparently, his most original work concerned the attempt to reconcile evolution and Christianity. McCosh somehow realized that “Darwinism could and would be proved sound” and so sought to prepare Christians for this event. He stood nearly alone among American clergyman in his support of Darwin’s new theory of evolution.
And then he goes off to some private institution, becomes President, and starts giving speeches about powers? Maybe McCosh was so sure of evolution because he saw it first-hand, while running a school of mutants!
Was X-Men based on Princeton? Could McCosh have been the original Professor X? Were he and Charles Darwin secretly mutants? Are powerful mutants, like Shirley Tilghman, still running Princeton from behind the scenes?
“I think you need a lot more than formal learning in order to be a civilized being.” (Suzanne Keller)
Is this some backhanded dig at the more famous Keller? Could someone be tired of living in Helen Keller’s shadow?
Please elaborate, Suzanne. What exactly do we need? Sight? Hearing? A driver’s license?
Show some fucking respect.
“Before you leave, remember why you came.” (Adlai Stevenson)
That’s what she said.
“No life is well-rounded without the subtle inspiration of beauty.” (Beatrix Farrand)
This sounds nice, but according to the Frist website, which provided me with the background of all of these quotes, students knew Ms. Farrand as “the bush woman”. It also says, “her trademark was the use of…creepers on walls.”
Could this “bush woman” be somehow related to any of the flashers or public masturbators that have been in the area recently? Was she the original local creeper? What exactly did she do on those walls? What kind of weird beauty inspired her, and what in God’s name did it inspire her to do?
Apparently, “Farrand later applied her skills to a dozen more college campuses.” I hope everyone on those campuses is ok.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not more so.” (Albert Einstein)
Easy for you to say, Albert! Pompous genius bastard…
“Race matters.” (Cornel West)
Did you know Cornel West decided to leave Princeton exactly 12 years after Frist was constructed? Something fishy is going on with this one.
If you don’t believe me, consider this fact! West uttered this quote on November 16th, the same day that he announced his resignation twelve years later.
My dates could be wrong though, considering I completely made them up.
“Too much praise can turn a fellow’s head if he doesn’t watch his step.”
Is that a threat? I’m not sure what it means, but I don’t like it.
“Error often is to be preferred to indecision.” (Aaron Burr, Jr.)
Tell that to Alexander Hamilton. Pulling the trigger is a pretty decisive move. I bet he would have preferred you not deciding to kill him.
“Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment.” (Lewis Thomas)
Within this quote resides the phrase, “Satan arose to harass human babies”!
The remaining letters spell “ muclkengnemibrementss” which I can only assume comes from some sort of Satanic dialect and means something really terrible.
More importantly, ants are just not like humans at all. Has Lewis Thomas ever seen an ant? They’re tiny!
“The art of learning to live together… is the most important of all the liberal arts.” (Christian Gauss)
And yet, it is not offered as a major. Why are they withholding the best stuff from us?
They are afraid we will figure it all out. That is why they separate us into residential colleges and encourage us to join eating clubs: so that we cannot all “live together.”
They can’t let us know too much.
“Less is a bore.” (Robert Venturi)
If less is a bore, and less is more, then more is also a bore. Therefore, everything is a bore. Sounds like someone is trying to make us complacent. Who you ask?
Robert Venturi, the architect who designed the interior of the Frist Campus Center—the man responsible for all of these quotes!
This is actually the guy’s picture. How can this guy not be behind some massive conspiracy?
These 41 Commandments have clearly been handed down by the authoritative administration, led by evil architect Robert Venturi, to pacify us.
I was only able to decode some of them. There remains an abundance of research to be done. I’ll leave the rest of these timeless gems (“The sea hates a coward,” “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” “I’ll always have a gig”) up to you. Tap into your inner Robert Langdons and go wild!
Some of you might still agree with Mark Twain, who said, “Princeton would suit me as well as Heaven, better in fact, for I shouldn’t care for that society up there.” But I hope at least one among you took these warnings to heart. Believe me, everything is not as it seems. Even paradise isn’t perfect.