PRUYNE LECTURE HALL, Amherst, MA—During the halfway point of his ninety minute lecture, Professor Joseph Rieke watched his students scribble in their notebooks while in complete and utter disbelief that they continued to write this shit down.
Rieke’s incredulity that students would even think about listening to this shit began when he learned that his class, “The Science of Gazing”, a 300 level Art History/English/Neuroscience/LJST course, had over fifty people pre-registered for it in the spring.
“All of you actually wanted to sign up for this? I didn’t expect anyone to show up,” he explained to everyone on the first day of class. “I mean, did any of you even look at the syllabus? There’s only one reading: the soul. Wait, did you just write that down? Are you writing this down right now? Ooga-booga. Wobbledee wobbledee wop. Still writing? Holy shit.”
Rieke has taught the course for over a decade, and he observes that as they get further in the semester, students are even more willing to accept absolutely anything he says as undisputed law. He reportedly remarked to his students: “You gaze in, and suddenly you’re in touch with that thing that puts you in through with everything else.”
“They ate that shit up,” he scoffed.
According to Rieke, he can talk about anything and everything that comes to mind. His most recent lecture focused on the ontology of Monet, the space race, and being controlled by the illuminati. It culminated in a request that students go home and gaze at the Mona Lisa from the insides of their soul, then to imagine seeing it from the perspective of someone having sex for the last time before they’re sent to battle on the Eastern Front; a request that each student fulfilled dutifully.
“The class is amazingly illuminating, fundamentally life-changing in every way,” says Jill Edelweiss. “All my other classes are about stuff like Math, or History, or Learning. It’s good to make a change, and really envelop myself in the ooze of understanding, gyrating in the epiphanic experience of the ‘wisdom-injections’: Professor Rieke’s word for ‘lecture’. He’s really opened my eyes.”
“All three of them,” she added.
His office hours are unorthodox as well. When asking for a letter of recommendation, a student forgoes the usual process and must express their request in the form of a thirty minute interpretive dance. The letter is generally stuffed into the student’s waistband during the performance.
He hopes to continue to address what he considers to be the fundamental crisis of the condition of our lives: namely, “estrangement from our high-school sweethearts, Malia Obama, and whether or not to wear pants.”
There were none.