Opinion

An examination of desktop scrawl

If you wish to feel the pulse of college students, then read the scrawl on the study stations situated near the walls and windows of the Richter library. These eclectic snapshots of mystical rumination, adolescent angst, and disturbing perversity mostly represent neither graffiti nor art.
Rather, I contend that library squiggle chronicles the recurring themes of college life, nay, of life itself. Like the ancient cave dwellers who meticulously etched images into walls-of gods, cosmic objects, animals, and themselves-the modern caveman records nothing less than his humanity onto portable wooden desks.
Anger verily fills the heart of many a squiggler. Some declare “X is a bitch.” Other messages abound that are even less honorific while others still disparagingly implicate entire fraternities and sororities.
Sexual scrawl almost reads like a page from a Dr. Kinsey book. There is no shortage of the “for a good time, call 123-4567” variety, but other decidedly explicit messages have been sleazily recorded as well. Not just a few write of their sexual exploits, the details of which even the notoriously horny folks might find too difficult to swallow. Just imagine the possibility that someone you know, some sober classmate of yours, is unashamedly asserting their sexual beingness on these desks.
Spirituality also has a place on the desks of life. Several messages exalt religious icons. Others more or less say that God loves us. At least one desk asked why God permits suffering in the world, a query that was subsequently answered with missionary zeal by another writer.
The studious scrawlers manage their rage, restrain their libidinous energies, and keep themselves from ascending too far into the realm of deity. They keep their messages simple and encouraging: “I need to do well,” they write. Others offer their readers practical wisdom. Exhorts one: “Study: You’ll need money.”
Our library is not merely a vast book collection. Although I sympathize with librarians who consider scrawl to be nothing short of intolerable defacement, one cannot ignore the possibility that from the scrawl we can gain quite a lot of insight into the human condition.

Raj Singh is a junior majoring in philosophy.

January 22, 2002

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The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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