Monday, June 30, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Here’s a question that occurs to me lately, as I try to prepare for another academic job interview (ten years after the last one): Who am I?
     And why do I need to know?
     I appear to have jostling identities, selves that don’t know each other well, even, sometimes, only dimly aware of each other’s existence. This sounds like crazy talk, sort of schizophrenic. And yet--I have a suspicion (based in part on my reading of Catcher in the Rye) that I am not alone. That this may be, in fact, common. The unified self is, in fact, a social construct--convenient, perhaps even indispensable, but imposed. Learned, at the very least.           
     This is a way to try to get them all together. The cultivated selves, the ones that refuse to be eliminated and must be accommodated (somehow), the granite-like chunks of character. My best self sits down and gives this abstract shape--little black marks that have nothing to do with what they represent--to what is obviously infinite, inchoate, unknowable.

Friday, June 6, 2014

My class was reading Catcher in the Rye, the iconic teenage text that I remember not liking in high school. One of the students said he wanted to read it. He only made eye contact when he talked about this book, so I ordered it. And we were totally into it. I loved how it was all about being a stranger to yourself, about the weird unmapped spaces in between things.
     “He was a very good skater and all, but I couldn’t enjoy it much because I kept picturing him practicing to be a guy that roller skates on the stage.”
I read this--I read an encyclopedia of terrorism. Other people’s ideas occupy me, set up camp for awhile, move on, leaving behind--graffiti. And other things.
Lost in hundreds of pages of events I vaguely remember, growing up oblivious, my parents gnashing their teeth over the news, distant padding for the immediacy of child life. Even September 11--my one and only adult moment when I can look back and say, I remember exactly where I was. I was walking out the door to teach a class in Ann Arbor and the phone rang, a phone plugged into the wall. My friend Shelby in New Orleans said, “The world is ending.” I didn’t get it then, but I can still see the tree branches out the window and the edge of the coffee table.
   Suddenly it all comes into unbearable focus. But I can’t stop reading. It’s my job. I tumble into the beauty of the assassinated. Bashir Gemayel, Daniel Pearl--how could they be gone, these men who look so powerful, even with a gun to the head? It short-circuits my imagining. Just like that, the point is made. That there is good and evil. Real and fake. The essence of absolute truth.