Monthly Archives: April 2014

Au café

At the café we discussed our lack of focus and the disturbing agitation of the atmosphere this semester.

We decided we were not actually slackers, but that we had our energy blocked, and were “checked out” because of wanting to check out not from our work but from the disturbing atmosphere.

We decided we should become more assertive, not question ourselves, and not worry about the time we spend “checked out” — but rather, create schedules of time-slots when we would be purposefully checked in — without expecting ourselves to be inspired the rest of the time.

We realized that as we became more and more accustomed to our checked-in selves, the more we would find ourselves living in that reality. We decided we would have regular leaving-town schedules, such that we would never not know when the next time we would be in a more comfortable place for us was.

In a related development, I decided one of my mantras would be that teaching is a scholarly act. There are many reasons why, at the present juncture, this is an important thing to say.

Undeveloped notes related to the fear of teaching

– that one would always have spent too much time on it, one must constantly look over one’s shoulder to avoid being told one was spending too much time  (I in fact spend too little time, do not spend time on the right aspects of it, because I am so concerned to live up to the exhortation to spend less time … for no actually good reason; the fact is that I do know what to do)

– that for me it is one of one’s scholarly activities, not just content delivery, and I am right although the poorer teachers and students say I am wrong

– that in fact, it is my job not to feel fear in this way — it blocks me from doing the job right, so it is not just my right but also my duty to ditch the fear

– the fear that one will be teaching in an incredibly wrong style for one’s place and not see it: right. I do not see it because it is not incredibly wrong

– my general double bind: the impression that my REAL job is not to achieve, but to not achieve so as not to intimidate others; the feeling that by far the most important project is not to intimidate those who see themselves as competitors, and that all other achievements are secondary at best; in other words that mild self-destruction, not Bildung, is my real, if unspoken job (and Reeducation, which was anti-achievement, fed that)

– the way in which I seem to keep reenacting scenarios in which that double bind operates: one must exist, but must not

– feeling frightened, inadequate, defeated avant la lettre, or feeling that only with those feelings was one acceptable, or that one would not be allowed to survive if one did not assume these as core feelings; one’s job was to feel these things

– the idea that one did not really deserve it, was not really qualified, was not really real, but was only tolerated and allowed to play at being real, so long as one also harbored the feelings above — without which one would be on the street

– why does Vallejo seem to feel so strongly that he is a shadow? what was his early life really like … or did he create his persona from books, like the bluesman Robert Johnson?

– note the inadequacy of mere time management as a cure for these issues (although one can certainly assign oneself large amounts of time in which one is on vacation from them).



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I should talk about kinds of music, nature, and possibly storybooks and poems, to participate in that series on “formation.” I should also talk about the grape boycott and related events of that time.

Really what I have to say is that I should never have left California or rather, that I never had the chance to consider seriously enough the cost of not having the sierra and the coast at hand.

I also note that if formation is not only what one was exposed to or offered but what one sought out, then I may not be truly formed since I do not see myself as having sought things out nearly so actively as I tried to fit in and not upset people. Or so it seems.

That, of course, could be read in another way — one should also consider the things I insisted upon doing despite efforts to dissuade.

What I really want to talk about, however, is how I contracted and why I should drop my fear of teaching. It is very disabling and it is also bad for research — and the irony of it all is that I am actually very good at teaching, and efficient. I have notes on what I transfer onto it, garnered by watching myself think about it yesterday.

But I do not have time to write that post, or the post on formation, either, so this is a stand-in post. My decision not to tear myself apart is slowly working.



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Nómina de huesos

Se pedía a grandes voces:

-Que muestre las dos manos a la vez.

Y esto no fue posible.

-Que, mientras llora, le tomen la medida de sus pasos.

Y esto no fue posible.

-Que piense un pensamiento idéntico, en el tiempo en que un cero permanece inútil.

Y esto no fue posible.

-Que haga una locura.

Y esto no fue posible.

-Que entre él y otro hombre semejante a él, se interponga una muchedumbre de hombres como él.

Y esto no fue posible.

-Que le comparen consigo mismo.

Y esto no fue posible.

-Que le llamen, en fin, por su nombre.

Y esto no fue posible.



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More mantra

The key, as we know, is taking authority in your own life and believing in your competence and reasonableness.

This is what Reeducation took from me almost definitively, and what I am still trying to retake.

I really need it.

In Reeducation, taking reasonable care of oneself and one’s life was anathema, because it was too strengthening — it was a “coping mechanism” that enabled “denial.”

That is wrong.

Also, the 40 years of academic terror, that has kept increasing. It was hurtful that I did not want to go to a small private college; hurtful that I went to graduate school … hurtful that I was research oriented and wanted a research job … hurtful that I would have left academia to get one … hurtful that I have the education I do.

Being in situations where anything I do is wrong. Being in situations where I must undertake self-harm so as to show wounds that will cause the executioners to pass me over, so that I can preserve myself for a future moment when the world will have become more rational and one can feel free.

These things have a certain reality, but they cannot be right, either.

I am completely capable of not living in this psychic world but I am afraid it will cause others unforgivable pain if I do not.

Fear of unbearable pain, and fear of the pain others will feel if they cannot see me in pain, is the double bind that creates these mental blocs for me.

If it is true that others feel stronger if I suffer, it may still not be my responsibility to satisfy them. 

I am afraid of academic work, especially the teaching part of it, because for me academia outside the safe, sane public R1 environment is a space of mutilation … persecution … torture … extreme danger … excruciating pain.

My fear makes this worse. If I did not have the fear come up … if when certain things happened I resisted, kept my mind clear, instead of allowing it to be shattered … things might be different. Have been, when I have lived in environments where other people were sane and were not hurt or offended by sanity.

I think I should keep my wits about me and resist.

I was always taught that learning to accept the shattering, assisting in the completion of one’s own destruction, was the spiritually advanced and also the ethical thing to do in these situations.

I was always taught that I ought to obey better, hide more completely, dissumulate yet more. But I think I should fight.



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Et encore, le mantra de la semaine

(It is amazing how much I have to write in here to encourage myself and de-terrorize myself, is it not?)

It is amazing how one of the reasons I am afraid to start working on anything work related, especially teaching related, because when I do I will hear the voice of dat whiteman saying I am spending too much time on it or not enough, whatever he didn’t say the last time, and I will not be able to concentrate because I will have to struggle with this voice.

Again research, deciding not to be afraid about teaching, and other forms of rest and relaxation are very renewing.

Most renewing is remembering that one does in fact know what one is doing.

It was always said that I needed protection because I was not as competent as the others, and could not aspire to as much.

I do not think these things were true.

As I have said lately, I do not really want to write about pain any more.

Again research, deciding not to be afraid about teaching, and other forms of rest and relaxation are very renewing.

I wish I had implemented my law plan, I really do, or my UN/UNESCO plan, but it is late now and they were each ambitious plans for a whole life.

I must become strong in this now, and it means ignoring the noise.

Again research, deciding not to be afraid about teaching, and other forms of rest and relaxation are very renewing.



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Peace of mind

A lot of the work I do is discouraging because it is not what I want to do and because with the people I have available, it is poorly done. Antidote: research time and perceiving myself as autonomous. These are the two things we are not permitted enough of, or often enough, here.

The reason I “procrastinate” on anything connected with work and particularly, work that will involve physical presence in my building is of the associations: I do not want to be reminded that I am about to be sent to a cruel space ruled over by cruel people.

When you find yourself “procrastinating” or “daydreaming,” could it be that what you actually lack is peace of mind? The volatility and instability of the institution, the constant suspicion, the manipulations.

The idea that you should not be who you are; that you should not have the degrees you have; that you should not this and should not that. When all of the things you apparently should not do are actually the only things that will improve anything or advance anyone. The idea that you should “adjust” eternally, and “learn” from the people who emit nonsense.

I am my own authority now. I refuse to be tentative any more, or to compromise in the ways I have felt obliged to do. It is important to do what is necessary to feel well, and to remember this mantra.



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El “ojo discernador” de Cirilo Villaverde

There is a nice chapter title for me if I write it in Spanish.

Research, deciding not to be afraid about teaching, and other forms of rest and relaxation are very renewing but most renewing is our resolution never to listen to one of the chairs, to say obedezco pero no cumplo … and the realization that the incompetence is greater than we knew and exists at levels we were too polite to recognize.

Being able to see this, undiplomatic as it is, is very important for efficiency and thus enables me to contribute much more to the university.

I am irritated and I discern that I have been angry for years, because they have insisted upon being so destructive and also because it has seemed one had to be diplomatic with them about it, or nurse them about it. In fact my original plan was best, to ignore them completely. I am shocked at how I got sucked in and at how poor the results have been.

Professors would say it is my fault, I should have been made of iron and should have been able to withstand anything, were I “serious.” I do not know any who have even faced what I have, however.

Anyway, it is interesting to imagine this article in Spanish, ignore everyone and think only of my communities far away.



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Les mathématiques

Et cette série m’ennuie; il me semble que je l’ai déjà écrit, dans ce même codex. My intellectual formation, comment elle s’est donnée, on le sait. And: did one need my life to become me? My friend Nicky has a formation very like mine but did not come to it by the same paths at all. What is the question to which this series responds? Is it one I have not yet answered? Je me le demande.

Nonetheless we will persist a bit, having already covered the first perceptions, about language and the research orientation. Now we have foreignness, most specifically shifting cultural and cognitive systems: my favorite book has always been Eva Meets Noriko-San. In the first grade we studied SNCC and the incipient war in Viet Nam, and I was interested in contemporary history; I spent the third grade on study abroad in Madrid and liked the large city, the high, dry air, the museums, the streets. In the sixth grade we studied Latin America; I learned to do research and started writing my famous papers.

In third grade I had also started studying mathematics. Nobody I knew understood it but me, and I soon learned how to go to office hours for consultation on difficult problems. I became good at math; it is also because of math that I became an independent learner, since nobody understood it at home. I am still one of the few people in humanities I know who appreciates engineering and likes mathematics; this difference may be fundamental.




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C’est quoi qui m’a formée? Et si c’est tout?

I have written these things down before,  but in Spanish and more interestingly, in the style of Altazor (or so I imagined). But très rapidement, I created my research program when I was two or three.

At that time I was acquiring language and noticing that it was changing me. The world was coming into sharper focus, I was able to see and say more things about it every day, but I was losing contact with something else, with intuitions, with the material, with knowledge I had had and that did not fit into language, with a glowing light I knew I would not see again until life’s end. I wondered, then: does language form thought, or thought language? I wanted thought to precede language, but I could see that language actually selected perceptions and went on to form thought around these.

I wondered whether others had considered these questions and was moved to ask my mother, but then changed my mind and decided the better person to ask would be my father, as he tended to be the more conceptually oriented or the more abstract thinker of the two.

He said that this was not a settled question but a research field, and that to find an answer to it I would have to undertake advanced research and, probably, learn French since some of the work on my question had been done in French.

I decided I would undertake such research since it would clearly support my broader goal, which was to know everything.  I was delighted to find that French was a language like the two I was already aware of, Spanish and English–and that beyond French there were many further languages.


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On undergraduate research

I think it is so foregrounded now because there is so little of it. In the past research was done in most undergraduate classes but now, instead, select undergraduates undertake supervised research projects while others do not learn research skills. Thus does the neoliberal university say it is doing more when it is in fact doing less.



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