It is no more elitist to seek a similar educational and professional background than it is racist to seek a similar culture. Communication rests in being able to relate, to speak the same language, as it were, to inhabit a common horizon of meaning. It is to occupy the stage of life as co-protagonists, writing and rewriting scripts that authenticate and evolve. This is not a preamble to intolerance and close-mindedness. It is a reminder that certain paradigms of meaning are more rigid, more ossified than others. It is a reminder that some are stuck in the trenches of their epistemic pattern of negotiation. It is a reminder that one can surely find oneself mud-faced digging through the impossible terrain to find common ground. Don’t. Instead find someone you can connect with intellectually, existentially, emotionally, viscerally, and alithetically. And since this is near impossible, find someone that does not make you feel compromised.
We all need to remember that we are all – all of us – works in progress, and that there is no absolute authority on the constitution of the truth. It is no one’s prized ownership. The truth vacillates not – tis not a moving target. The truth is the forward (or backward) march into the activities of lived life, and hence are constituted by us. Arrogance, polarized venues for truth telling, have no room in a discourse that calls out for endorsement, for (mutual) recognition in the interplay of authorial engagement. If we are to move forward and bring down the shackles of our own design – mostly from my generation and the present adult one – we (you …as the younger generation) need to be mindful of this! And though the words of Foucault speak loudly, they are not to be adopted as testimony to rebellion without vision! He says: “The lyricism of marginality may find inspiration in the image of the “outlaw,” the great social nomad, who prowls on the confines of a docile, frightened order.”
Transparency. Truth. Honesty. Trust. The constituents of alithetic living. Four ingredients also constitute the barley drink of which Heraclitus spoke – The barley-drink too comes apart if not stirred (B125), says he, speaking to the primordial. Barley. Grated cheese. Wine. Honey. None “naturally” combines; cheese no more dissolves into wine, than does barley blend to make for a thick drink. The drink is no drink at all unless upon each anticipated swallow it is first stirred.
Saying good byes to a group of seekers of the truth and value is intertwined with both inspiration and hope, as well as loss. For my students.
Michel Foucault has said: “I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls”. This resonates with me on so many levels, but in a most obvious way, it is reflected in my aspirations as a teacher. Walls speak to those cemented frameworks of interpretation of the world – our beliefs, values, interests, modus operandi – that stand erect as if given, objective, sturdy, primordial. Once deconstructed, dethroned, handled with caring, yet reasonable suspicion, what was once a blockade can make way for a window of transparency wherefrom perspective moves beyond the walls of our incarcerating chambers. It is an adventure that can’t be journeyed alone, in isolation; and is best realized amongst young, striving minds. And for this I am always grateful to my students. Honestly, I will miss you all. It has been an enjoyable semester …for me at least. And though virtual teaching has its own secret niches and dangers, I can sadly only truly, viscerally, speak to those of you who allowed me to get to know you via your participation, and appearance on my screen. Via the negotiation of class material we have also had the opportunity to think about the learning process and its institutionalization (discussion of structures that organize communities, organizations business environments). We’ve also all be awakened (I hope!!) to the dialectical – give-and-take – structures of teaching, and with it, your role in designing a platform molded from our joint participation. And with that I hope to stir your more hedonic inclinations and the travesty of convenience that often accompanies these, and (re)consider actively joining your virtual classes come next semester!
An expression my mother used when she first met my son. He was all of 2 hours old. There was something about him. It was unmistakable. My mother was not the only one to notice. Upon leaving the hospital, now 3 days old, we were stopped by a stranger who said “for this gentile soul,” and he offered us a bill for “goyri” – good luck. At day care, later in school, at the park, other moms, it was always the same. “He’s such a good kid.” Not, he is well behaved. Not, he is caring. Not, he is courteous, amicable. No. He is a good kid. He exudes goodness. It has always been thus. Later in life, I might even comment: son, you’re such a wonderful young man. To which often he’d disparagingly respond, “I know, mummy.” It was not a declarative, gregarious or boastful, ‘I know.’ It was an exasperated, “I know.” As in, F*ck, I know! As if he’d wish he could shed this goodness. He wanted to be more! He wanted to be complex, maybe. He wanted to be his own person uninhibited, free to simply express his will, and be as others are: sheer will.
Even Kant would think less of my son for not laying claims to his will as an expression of reason, unthwarted by circumstance or nature, or disposition!!! For Kant the true expression of goodness is that which is the outreached determination of reason – the seat of deliberative free agency! It is in fighting against the impulses that drive natures, dispositions, historicity and contingencies of spirit, that a character worthy of applaud, or inspiration, of gratitude, or pride is to be reckoned with.
Am I to favour instead those twisted, wretched beings who wear their existential grievances taunted by the (so-called) ephemeral, sensational, and psychical instead? Shall I embrace those who in battling their demons as exhibitionists flaunt their genitalia??!!! Internal struggle need not be so crude. A Narcissios awakening. Both emancipatory and subservient but always desperate.
“F*ck, I know,” he says in exasperation! An assault on the personification of self as other!
My true North. My son. It has always been thus. He is the embodiment of Kant’s moral law within. This continues ‘to fill my mind with ever increasing wonder and awe!’ December 18th, 1999 marks his entry into this world. Today, now 21, he remains as ever a child of ethereal goodness. Not pretentious or showy; not self-congratulatory; not unlike Doubting Thomas whose name he bears. Poised, self-contained – except when eruptions of rage find him – skeptical of the factical and grandiose whether in testimony to the truth or in manner. Inauthenticity, in all its forms, tends to ignite those eruptions of spirit, as he loosely also seeks to exorcise from himself. My North: steadfast, he glows brightly, like an anchor in the sky, burning with unassuming force. Happy birthday, my son, my Thomas
Sexism isn’t dead. In a lot of ways my generation and that of my mother were lucky to have been part of the feminist movement for despite our struggles and the more overtly patriarchal structures of society, we were united as women with a sense of purpose. We were sisters and that kinship was deeply felt. Our self-conscious awareness of battling our plight together empowered us to both problematize those structured arrangements that would have us be naturalized in the eyes of men, and assist in the renegotiation of ourselves, our bodies and our relations with men, be they our fathers, brothers, lovers, and/or bosses. The 1st and 2nd waves of feminism revamped much of our sociopolitical lives, but little seems to have been accomplished in the insidious and hyper-complicated web of inter-sexual relations especially where these include men. Tales of old sit at our front door mocking us as we find resolve in sexual licentiousness. Aghast!
Though normativity is ubiquitous, wretched Cyclopean (See?!!! ) scholars and self-proclaimed thinkers alike, were amongst the more feeble whom Kant had in mind when saying: ‘…the chief end of all academic life is to promote right opinions, and to inculcate fixed principles in minds of natural excellence in order to afford the only direction to the development of talent.’ And that scholars ‘all require practical wisdom; that is the capacity to recognise the true value of all knowledge from its relation to human ends. Science has a real and true value only as an instrument of practical wisdom (echoing the ancient Greeks). As such an instrument it is indeed indispensable. But without practical wisdom it is a dangerous possession, and has the tendency to make one conceited, rude and inhuman.’
Interpretation is quite seriously everything! Which is not to suggest a free-for-all, but the requirement that we become conversant in the discursive notation of engagement. The combatant modality – him vs. her, pro vs con, republican vs democrat, liberal vs conservative, truth vs falsehood, right vs wrong, good vs bad, etc. – snuffs nuance and kicks the interpretative modality to the curb.
I’ve had a long struggle, oscillating over the years, with social media and what I experience as the demise of genuine human(e) interaction. Data mining is a real threat to the fabric of social live, lived amongst those who experience themselves as autonomous beings, what Kant took to be the fundamental (perhaps primordial) presupposition for a (rich) moral life. The irony of a faceless platform calling itself Facebook, is not lost on me. Indeed, it has long irked me. And weighing, as I do, the promise of staying connected with family and friends abroad, I’ve found most presume connectivity and yet rarely reach out to have a real conversation or pick up the phone anymore. And though one might – as I had long deluded myself – envisage a platform of diversity where negotiation in a spirit of good faith might contribute to advancing my own understanding of human interest issues, the hegemony of most posts overwhelms. Deleting “friends” by the 1000s over the last couple of days evades the real issue: social media feeds, but does not nourish, our “negotiation” of the world. It boxes us into a paradigm of feeds posing for the truth, algorithmized for our delight (to sustain attention, and release of dopamine). Cornered most beast’s fight-or-flight response would turn on; but so oblivious are we that the threat remains ever elusive, and unconsciously we make our bed, tucked in all cozy-like with our “friends!” Deleting Instagram, and Whatsup and now Facebook (takes care of Zuckerberg!) is hopefully a practice that I shall have the temperance and fortitude to maintain over the long stretch (Tristan Harris has compared the addictive force to slot machines.) For any real friends I may have made along the way, even unwittingly, communication is not the ownership of social media.Roger McNamee was quoted saying: “The way to think about it is as 2.5 billion Truman Shows. Each person has their own reality with their own facts. Over time you have the false sense that everyone agrees with you because everyone in your news feed sounds just like you. Once you’re in that state, it turns out you’re easily manipulated.” (Roger McNamee, Early investor venture capitalist in Facebook)
Kalianna mou, another year and still unrest is visibly your adversary. A bedfellow who permits you not sleep, and in the daylight hours seeks you out like a gadfly. Only tis not Socrates that would have you awaken to the slumbers of a herd-like existence. The curvatures of your being are too complex for the innocence of your sensibilities that whisper: “Mommy?”
“I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.” Simone de Beauvoir might have known you just a little. Her words often fall from your lips. Though not emancipatory when spoken by you. 18 never was so old! A plague of the Gen Zs who have it easier than us baby boomers, but for all that, the baggage that has been hurled your way has amassed fears and an alarming sense of exposure. Things just don’t roll off your back; everything is an issue; everything is complicated; everything is an affront on you. When Epictetus’s words finally find a foothold you might better take charge in a manner that designs a life of quietude. For as he has famously said in his Enchiridion: “It is not events that disturb people, it is their judgements concerning them.”
Happy birthday, my precious girl!
Wisdom, it seems to me, cannot be imparted; though it can be inspired. It comes not with experience but from partaking in the process of lived life. Its truths stand not eternal, for they are not final, and sometimes appear as a shooting star, both beautiful and unraveling. Wisdom is not the privilege of the educated. Though she may bring a bed upon which to rest, tis not quite a state of Stoic quietude. Disquietude of mind, of spirit, remains sceptical, vibrant, alive to all that might seek her silence. Wisdom: she is a doubter, troubled, and sometimes trouble. But totally worth it!