4.5
August 5, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Naropa University is a Joke.

Photo: Naropa University.

You only need to read this intro if you think I’m shitting on Naropa. This is intended to spark our inspiration and love for Naropa.

There’s a lot of good things at Naropa.

I’m no mere fan, man. I’m a lifer, having attended every graduation but one until this year, when I’m not sure I was invited. I’ve interviewed every president, and many of the faculty have written for this here elephant journal. I’ve participated in presidential searches (which, recently, with the exception of the most recent, Naropa has a way of messing up). I’ve participated in its board of trustees, as a student, when I co-founded its Founder’s Society, which sought to reintroduce actual meditation and un-PC-ness in a campus drowning in New Age—the direct opposite of its founder’s intention, who was all about sparks, and pretty much the least-PC person in human history.

My mom taught at Naropa. I grew up waiting in its halls (and maitri rooms) for her classes to end. Naropa continues to be a huge asset to the Boulder community, reinvigorating our yuppified city with liberals, hipsters (the real kind) and rebels and artists, to repeat myself. I was born the first session of Naropa, when my parents attended, in 1974. Thoughtfully, I entered the world the day between sessions.

I’m named after one of its early visiting professors, a Beat poet. I got to study with Allen Ginsberg, an un-PC lover of life and language and, you know, boys. We were just friends.

I went to Naropa. For a semester. In one semester, I gained more debt than in four years at the top-ranked journalism school at Boston University, which at the time was more expensive than Harvard.

All that’s to say, I get to constructively criticize, with love, and I do so with respect.

‘Let East meet West and watch the sparks fly.’ ~ Chögyam Trungpa, founder of Naropa Institute, now University.

Naropa seemed to be on the verge of going poof a few years ago, and it needs to wake up. elephant and Naropa have always had a special relationship, a relationship that I’m sad to say is withering, like a house plant left alone at home in a sunny window for two weeks. Naropa needs to rediscover its sense of humor about itself, its sense of duty to the world, its sense of outrageousness. There’s still a strong, proud, humble faculty there—many of them senior students of its founder—and they deserve to get paid well and retire, when they so choose, seeing an institution reinvigorated.

Its new President, Chuck Lief, is the man to do it. He’s both modest and fun, a leader and a business man. He wasn’t picked, Sesame Street/Glee-quote-style, out of self-hate or theism. He was picked for his skills, as a president should be. And he gets the vision.

If you don’t believe that Naropa is due for some making fun and introspection, then google it. The web loves to hate on Naropa. But that’s not fair. Naropa is doing something unique: contemplative education, that, in its fullest manifestation, is a realization of the promise of education itself.

If you still don’t believe that it’s time to give Naropa some making-fun, here’s a poem from Bobby Louise Hawkins, a wonderful professor of mine that year semester.

He doesn’t understand
it’s a joke.
He has no sense of humour.
If he did have a sense of humour
he’d be surprised
how often he needed it.

Okay, Top 10 Reasons Naropa, like Portland(ia), is a walking talking hugging joke about itself:

1. Did you know? “An accounts payable clerk in the university’s finance department embezzled the shit out of them for nearly $600,000 over two years.” For more, here.

2. “Hugs need to last 16 seconds for your alpha waves to synchronize.” Or something like that. I was told this the other day, but immediately forgot the details as I vomited in my mouth while giggling.

3. “Unsurprisingly, Naropa U isn’t exactly regarded as a world-class academic institution. It came in 2,150th among colleges in 2012.

4. On the other hand, it’s probably one of the best schools for: 1) creative writing (Allen Ginsberg was co-founder of its Kerouac School, with the glorious feisty (understatement of the day) Anne Waldman, who still leads its well-regarded Summer Writing Program); 2) psychotherapy and 3) (Eastern) religious studies and 4) weirdly sexual nonsensical interpretive theater stuff.

5. It needs some help. This Cracked article (full link below) is cracking me up: “…there’s a little something for everyone to disappoint Mom and Dad.”

6. The school is full of peace-loving creative types including the

“white guy with dreadlocks enrolled in a peace studies program or a hirsute patchouli-soaked bohemian gal burning the midnight oil for your next ecopsychology exam…”

…types who nearly ran one of its greatest presidents out on a rail for failing to push enough “diversity classes” back in the day. You want diversity? Offer better scholarships and grants (which Naropa’s been doing, to its credit). Fewer diversity classes, more scholarships, more diversity.

7. Good news! “They’ve since expanded to include even more of the type of major that normally necessitates that the graduate’s parents have plenty of living space in the basement after graduation.”

Naropa University

8. Overheard at Naropa (with a little help from my friends): “I’m sorry I’m projecting. Saturn’s in retrograde and I’m on my moon.” “Please transmute your vajra tendencies and just allow the cohort to hold space for you to process your trauma.” “I’m thinking of dropping out and going to herb school.”

9. All that said, you love Naropa, I love Naropa, we all love Naropa. The sense of truly-loving community, the mixing of writing, art; some smart, sharp, motivated, intellectual, progressive, eco-minded, creative students; a beautiful green-built campus (well, Naropa‘s horribly split into three campuses); the bike shack and greenhouse and tea room and huge sycamore trees and crazy wisdom history and present…it’s good stuff. It just needs some serious fundraising, salary-raising, faculty-loving and raising the bar on the students.

10. There is no ten. I’m too out of touch these days to have ten, and wouldn’t have had nine but for the help of my Naropa friends.

Above quotes all hail from the hysterical, unfair and vicious Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/article_20312_5-insane-private-schools-you-wont-believe-actually-exist.html#ixzz2b7TYzF7n

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Waylon Lewis  |  Contribution: 595,690