Divine madness


In the basement of Swift Hall, the gods are duking it out. This week the prophet Muhammad is up against Chuang Tzu, a Chinese philosopher from the fourth century BC, considered by some scholars to be an early anarchist and known for his Daoist writings.

Grounds of Being, the Div School coffee shop, posts the results of its first-ever round-robin tournament on the blackboard behind the counter. Each week patrons vote with their tips, and whichever deity (broadly defined) brings in the most bucks moves on to the next round. As of Wednesday morning, Chuang Tzu was ahead $5.88 to $4. But there was a whole dollar in Muhammad’s tip jar that had yet to be counted in the day's-end tally.

“Some people were like, ‘You’re just doing it for the tips, aren’t you?’” says barista Karen Tye, ’07. In fact, she says, tips haven’t gone up noticeably—the contest is simply for fun. That said, some patrons take it seriously. The first week of August, fearing that Rastafarian Haile Selassie would prove more popular than J. K. Rowling, some Harry Potter fans accused the coffee shop of rigging the tournament, says Tye. Rowling won anyway.

Div School graduate students and coffee-shop workers Scot Ausborn and Brian Clites dreamed up the idea and handpicked the contestants. With quarter-finals beginning next week, Mormon prophet and angel Moroni, Michel Foucault, John Lennon, Pythagoras, Optimus Prime (an action figure from the Transformers), Poseidon, and Rowling remain in the running. Grounds of Being hopes to host another such tournament, but next time, says Tye, the shop will ask customers for the godly suggestions.

Jenny Fisher, ’07

Photos: It all comes down to the tip jar (top); gods battle behind the counter (bottom).

September 8, 2006