Saturday, April 2, 2016

Octogenarian is reminded of teaching stoned students in the '60s

We encountered a remarkable change in the student body, particularly the new graduate students in classics, which forecasted a general shift in the culture of American youth. In the fall term of the academic year 1964-65, as I approached the spot where my Homer seminar was scheduled, I saw the students unaccountably standing outside the building as though waiting, and moreover they all seemed to be smoking the same cigarette, which they were passing around among themselves. Once we had reassembled and I began, I quickly sensed an undertone of hilarity, which in the course of the two hours occasionally broke into giggles and even laughter at what I had to think was only minimally humorous. They were stoned, of course, but I had no understanding of this. At least not then, but it rapidly became an obvious feature of more events than I would like. I began to recognize a new kind of insouciance, a marvelous disconnect, sometimes adding a wonderful long-distance focus on the material at hand, sometimes just descending into a vague pit where any understanding was threatening to be demolished. Ironically enough, it resembled what I now encounter all the time in my dotage as my friends and I carry on conversations in which we often forget the thread in the middle of speaking. The only things missing are the giggles and the munchies.
Charles Rowan Beye, My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), p.

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