Monthly Archives: March 2011

Las ventanas se han estremecido…

…Ignoro lo que será del enfermo esta mujer, que le besa y no puede sanarle con el beso, le mira y no puede sanarle con los ojos, le habla y no puede sanarle con el verbo. ¿Es su madre? ¿Y cómo, pues, no puede sanarle? ¿Es su amada? ¿Y cómo, pues, no puede sanarle? ¿Es su hermana? Y ¿cómo, pues, no puede sanarle? ¿Es, simplemente, una mujer? ¿Y cómo pues, no puede sanarle? Porque esta mujer le ha besado, le ha mirado, le ha hablado y hasta le ha cubierto mejor el cuello al enfermo y ¡cosa verdaderamente asombrosa! no le ha sanado….

I have failed to find my cat, and a whole lunar month has passed.


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An Illumination on Robert Boice, 7

If I accomplished something, it must have taken too much time. If I am planning something, I must be planning to take too much time. If I am doing something, I must be going too slowly.

I feel guilty about time, or fearful. But really, the key to everything is to give yourself enough time, not too little. That is not “procrastination,” although I was taught it was. This is very important.


But I feel I have finally discovered a good use of Boice today, as his advice is helping me organize mundane work.

This only shows, though, why I am uneasy about him as a writing guide — despite agreeing with a number of his practical suggestions. At bottom I feel he approaches writing as an unpleasant chore, that one can accomplish cheerfully. This is how I feel about some things, but not about that.



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An Illumination on Robert Boice, 6

Around freshman courses I feel fear, shame, guilt. This, of course, has to do with the way I have been exhorted about time spent upon them. I want to get a handle on this.

Due to the exhortations I received about such courses and the fear I thus attach to them, I procrastinate on the work for them. I am also perfectionistic about them — about my work in them, not the students’ — and it is fear, not my professional judgment, that tells me I should be. The result is that I do not teach these courses as well as I would if I felt less hemmed in.

It is in this area, then, that I should follow Robert Boice’s advice on writing — advice whose hegemony I resent as advice on writing. I resent that hegemony because in my view Boice’s advice it does not apply to people who do not like to write and/or are not accustomed to it.

I think Boice is speaking to beginners. Or, he is giving instructions on how to get things done, less painfully and more successfully, that one does not enjoy and would not choose to do normally. Or he is teaching people how to calm fears. These are in fact the teaching situations I have with lower division courses, so Boice’s advice applies easily.


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An Illumination on Robert Boice, 5

My failure to take enough research time has me depleted and oppressed. I have to take this time for my own reasons, not out of duty (as it is said one must) or fear (as it is also said one must). I have been told so often that it is arrogant and egotistical to do research during business hours, or to put research over service, that I could cry.

I am sorry. I am sorry. I know I did this degree against all well intentioned advice. I am sorry.



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An Illumination on Robert Boice, 4

I think a lot of people believe life is suffering and think the above kinds of attitudes are normal. I think a lot of other people believe that pointing out problems is just letting off steam. I do not agree. Neither do I relate to the truism that change is hard — which seems to be the justification usually given for deciding to continue to suffer or recommending that to others.


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An Illumination on Robert Boice, 3

Time time. The pain I am in every day is in part about being kicked by time and interpretations of time, exhortations about how to squeeze time. I know how to use time but after becoming a professor I lost confidence in my perceptions, as it was at that point people began to assume I would not know how to use time and began exhorting me.

For example: I have a lot of freshmen to teach and managing the complex course materials takes some time (there are two  required, very complex web sites, not designed by me, in addition to a labyrinthine  set of printed materials, DVDs, and CDs). Talking to the students takes time, as does coming up with ways to make class go well. I have a great deal of fear and guilt associated with this because I was exhorted so much, for so long, never to spend time on these courses. I know, it will never get me anywhere. I know, I have been told, I know.

Those teaching other sections, however, give themselves the amount of time they need and feel happier than I do. The time I save by rushing is time in which I am exhausted. Yet if I do not rush, I live in fear of exhortations about time. I must rush. If I cannot show that I am rushing and have rushed, I will meet certain doom.

So I teach these courses in the shadow of two conflicting fears:
1) what will be said of me if I do well at it, namely, that I am fit for nothing else, or that I am interested in nothing else (this is a primordial fear)
2) what will be done if I do not bend over backwards to keep said freshmen completely happy at all times (this is another primordial fear, that conflicts with the first).

I literally feel as though I had two police officers kicking me to death, one from each side: one because I am spending any time at all on this project, and the other because I am not spending all my time on it.

Is it possible that my extreme unhappiness in the kind of academic job I have usually had, and the amount of energy I have to put in each day to keep that unhappiness enough at bay so as to function at a minimal level, makes it impossible for me to put myself in a position to do the kind of academic work I would really like to do?

That is the conclusion to which I arrived years ago but everyone else said:
a) nonsense, you can do it and you should/must, or
b) this is your fault, you committed the sin of getting a PhD and now you must atone for it — in the name of those who did not get jobs, and also because you were told you should not do a PhD and you did it anyway, so this is what you get.



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An Illumination on Robert Boice, 1 and 2

You are always so relaxed and calm, said my student. I do not feel that way at all, although it is in fact my nature. Perhaps my true nature is showing through. Perhaps what this student sees is the shell of myself I show when I am in fact withdrawing as much as possible. I do not know.

Butwhen I began doing something I called “procrastination” it was not that I had suddenly grown lazy, or suddenly forgotten to manage time. It was that I had acquired guilt, shame and fear about being who I was, which is to say about being what many would be glad of. To live meant to be myself and use my powers, which was to be avoided at all costs.

And so I do not think I “procrastinated” on any particular aspect of work, really. I “procrastinated” on being myself, on living, on life.


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Big Joe Williams

This is a riveting performance.


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e. e. cummings

somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond

somewhere i have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if you wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands…


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In Which I Do Not Recognize Myself

I took a career test that said this:

You would most enjoy a career that allows you to meet new people. You would also be happiest in a career that allows you to be free and flexible, and allows you to be extremely creative.

You are a great leader. You genuinely enjoy being around other people. Your relationships with others are very important to you. You love talking and meeting new people. You are very enthusiastic about work and about all that you do and have in your life. You love being the focus of attention. You enjoy a fast pace. You are very socially oriented. Therefore, you are much happier being with others than you are alone. You crave interaction with others.

You are very spontaneous and often act before you think. You are always quick to answer when you are asked a question, even if you aren’t sure of the answer. It is easier for you to improvise as you go along. You enjoy thinking out loud, and are most creative when brainstorming with friends or colleagues. You enjoy being involved in many activities.

You are very easy to read, and often wear your heart on your sleeve. You are never afraid to tell people what you think. You are very empathetic and genuine. You can sometimes be seen as over-emotional or too involved by others. But that is only because you tend to get so involved in the things you do that they become personal. You want to be adored, loved and appreciated. You like to please others and to make sure people are happy.

You trust your gut instincts. You are easily inspired and trust that inspiration. You are very innovative. You analyse things by looking at the big picture. You are concerned about how what you do affects others. You worry about your actions and the future. You tend to use a lot of metaphors and are very descriptive and colourful in your choice of language.

You are very creative, and get bored easily if you don’t get to express yourself. You like to learn new things. You don’t like the same old routine. You like to leave your options open.

If these things are true, and I am not sure they are, but if they are, what should I be?



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