The Italicization of College: The function of Marijuana in the Academic and Social Experience of College
Marijuana serves two primary functions for students in college: it (1) alleviates the daily stressors of institutionalize academia and (2) serves as a social bonding tool among users. To understand the function of marijuana in the academic and social experience of college, I observed individuals partaking in the cultural phenomena in both settings and interviewed two self-labeled potheads (daily smokers) who chose to constantly remove themselves from stratified normality. Through my observations, interviews and research, I discovered students’ reasons behind usage and how they use the drug in their college experiences. .
“Aware is a perfect word to describe it,” Mary said, after passing the joint to Dank.
“People who are against marijuana think that getting high is like being drunk, where your judgment is clouded and you’re not aware of anything around you.” “I hate when people say that!” Dank chimed. “For me-“, she continued, “being high is like being in reality. No, it IS reality. I can escape from my past and future problems and focus on what life really is about which is living in the moment. I can go to the park and appreciate everything about nature. We know that the sky is blue, but we don’t…” She paused, fumbling with the idea in her mind, “we don’t really take a moment to really absorb the blue-ness of the sky. We don’t realize how crazy it is that clouds are literally floating above our heads and moving silently and gracefully. Our minds are so clogged with the stress we deal with that we don’t appreciate life. It’s disgusting. I get high because I want to live in that state.” She said passionately. [Dank, Dave, and Mary Jane. Interview by Salmana Bah. Phone recording. Philadelphia, Pa., March 15, 2014]
That state, my interviewee desires, is described by Michael Pollen as the “italicization of experience” (2001:166). When we italicize, we remove a word’s straight, rigid composition and alter it so it becomes slanted, almost fluid like. It is a simple process that yields a complex change, beyond the physical. By some innate knowing, we read italics in a way that emphasizes the feeling behind it. A feeling that is not present in its normal form. For example, if take the word “really” and make it really, the word did not change but our perception of it did. Italics give a something-ness that is not normally there.
Pollen is not talking about the literal slanting of words but instead the slanting of life experiences. Of course we cannot put our lives into a word document, highlight the entire thing and press “Ctrl” and “I” to give it importance. However, we can use Cannabis as the physical manifestation of italicization. With it, we can alter our perception of stratified reality.
Our perception of reality is burdened with the implications of society. The institutionalized acquisition of knowledge has been suffocated by the...