Finding the spirit of Lewis & Clark

Photo by Lacey Jacoby

By Drake MacFarlane /// Backdoor Editor

If there is one overarching statement one can make about Lewis & Clark is that it appears to lack any real community. Instead, it seems that we are a fragmented body, with hundreds of mini communities with only a tiny bit of overlap. Many tell me that they feel that Lewis & Clark lacks a central communal soul. We aren’t “Clarkies” or “Pios”–we’re just LC students.

A collective spirit is the backbone of a small community like Lewis & Clark, and when that spirit is disrupted or absent, the community suffers. At present, the lack of a defined spirit is a major threat to the community, and through an economic lens, it affects retention rates and alumni giving. This is problem that can be fixed, but it requires a hard look at the Lewis & Clark culture of independence and nonconformity. However, those trends may be the source of our discontent, it has the potential to solve the problem as well.

One of the most common terms I’ve heard to describe the Lewis & Clark spirit is “apathetic.” There’s this opinion that we lack spirit, lack community and lack tradition. But, why? Ironically, LC’s obsession with individualism and freedom has led us to being more isolated. We are all unique snowflakes in one giant homogenous snowstorm, yet we refuse to acknowledge the storm. We all find our little niches, our little cliques and we stick with them, under the guise of individuality. Through doing so, we isolate ourselves and polarize our home.

However, while I will be one of the first to defend individualism, there is a tradeoff. In the attempt to be independent and unique, we shirk the idea of community. Jaded cynicism and skepticism towards attending school-wide events are just the obvious signs of this. The funny part is that in trying to create an independent culture, we shatter the possibility of a unifying LC culture. That lack of culture is what drives people away and leaves us with the apathy we feel.

But, I argue that much of it is in our heads. The school is only apathetic if we say it is. It’s a social construct and as the name suggests, the only way to change it is through social change. Instead of looking at school spirit as a conformist opiate, see it as a chance to add your individuality to the picture that is LC. We should embrace terms like “Clarkie” and take pride in the place we spend our formative years. We can be cynical and we can be jaded,but all that leads to is a terrible experience for us all. We have a chance to make this place better than what our peers make it out to be and leave this institution in a better shape than it was before. And the way we do that is through our individual action.

The very source of our disconnection can be our rallying cry. We can be individuals in a crowd, scary as it sounds. The community doesn’t end with us, but rather, begins with us. Our school’s motto is to discover, to learn, and to work together. So how about we act like it? Instead of lamenting that we aren’t as cool as Reed or that we are apathetic, realize that at our school’s core is the idea that we can forge a community through our individuality. If we want a community, then we have to work for it. I’m prepared to do so–are you?

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