Get with the funk

March 18, 2011

Students of Brandeis University, I have heard the Good Word, I have seen the Sign, I have experienced the Ecstasy, and I want to share it with you.

It has a name: The Funk.

“What is this ‘funk,’” you ask, “and how can I find it?” To this I answer you, if you go looking for the funk you will never find it. One day the funk will creep up on you, slither down your spine, make your knees shake, tickle your nose, spin you around and suck your face off. You can then make a choice: surrender to the groove or go on living your miserable funkless existence.

Funk is a musical genre associated with artists from the ’60s and ’70s like James Brown, but it is much more than that. Funk is a way not of understanding the world, but of gettin’ down with reality. You don’t need to be a child of the 70s or take a lot of drugs to go there (although those things don’t hurt).

Let’s get more specific. Funk is different from ideals like grace or harmony, because it is inherently nasty. When you open up a can of tuna fish and say, “that smells funky,” it’s not a pretty thing. Funk sees the ideal and it sees the reality. But then it jumps in between the two and shimmies through the divide.

Unfortunately, at Brandeis many students mistake funk for its prim cousin, “awkwardness.” For example, if President Frederick Lawrence walks down the spine path and you accidentally spill your chocolate milk on him, most people will text their friends, “OMG president lawrence got milk spilled on him AWKWARD!” But a funky person would look at that situation and laugh his or her ass off with glee.

Some people associate funk with black culture, and they are right. But you don’t have to be black to be funky. In fact, the funk gets a real kick out of the fact that you if you’re white you want to avoid funkiness because you associate it with being black. The funk is not blind to race, class, gender, sexuality or any of that. Funkiness means being a woman and thinking that men are jerks or accusing French people of smelling bad.

Here’s another thing you all need to know about the funk: it hates economics majors. I don’t know why. It just does.

Some places in the world are just so funk-averse that there’s really no use trying. The Hiatt Career Center is just one example of such a place. You can shake your groove thang off in a resume appointment, but that joint will never be funky.

On the other hand, Sherman is one of the funkier places on the eastern seaboard. You can smell it a mile away.

But every person is capable of funkiness, wherever you live. So students of Brandeis University, in my last two months at our beloved school I wish to offer you this final piece of otherworldly wisdom: Ditch awkward. Get funky.

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