Every year, as an Ohio State student, one receives an e-mail urging them to not jump into Mirror Lake, one of the most awesome traditions ever. The e-mail, which rightfully encourages safety, includes the lines: “Ohio State has many wonderful traditions. The Mirror Lake jump is not one of them. And I strongly encourage you not to participate.”
I decided to reply to that e-mail with the following:
First of all big fan, I love what you’re doing. Unfortunately you’ve missed the mark here. I love safety, it’s one of my few passions (along with lepidoptery and artisanal cheeses), and I also understand that the university has a liability issue to deal with, but saying the the Mirror Lake jump isn’t one of the wonderful traditions of our fine university is an affront to the entire idea of tradition.
Traditions often make little sense, have confusing histories, and can be outright coo coo bananas crazy, but that’s what makes the so endearing. You’re carrying out some action because it’s a part of the identity you’ve elected to take on. If I were English I’d sing “God Save the Queen” before a soccer game and as connoisseur of artisanal cheese I don my traditional snake skin cheese gloves before most meals. These things become a part of what makes the identity relevant. It’s why we, society, works so hard to preserve tradition.
Pass on liability and educate the student on safety, but don’t insult us. It’s stupid and uncomfortable and downright loony, but it’s also a time of camaraderie, pride, significance and thrill. Don’t sully that. Don’t take that away from anyone. Some of the best have occurred during the week of this game and I hope that every student after me gets a chance to create similar memories. I hope to hear my children tell me about their first jump as OSU freshman. Most importantly, I hope that everyone is safe on Tuesday and you can rest assured that everyone is taking precautions. One of the great things about traditions is that when we share them we are quick to point out the hazards and our tactics for avoiding them. A tribal hunter will ask for advice on his first hunt and underage students will ask me how to get duct tape off of their lower legs without pulling our too much hair. It’s goofy, but it’s ours.