I am formed by natural scenery. People ask why I am calm and it is because I have in the back of my mind the row of high volcanoes on view behind me, the redwood path down which I am making my way, the ocean rushing up to me with its salt.
Academics say you must be able to live anywhere but I think it is because they do not know what it is to form a deep connection with land. They feel that to have preferences about places is a form of snobbery or a lack of hardiness.
That is superficial. I am who I am because of the land.
I am still bored with the “formative” series since this weblog is already my Bildungs-space, but it is still an opportunity to look at things from a slightly different angle and think of a few new things.
One thing I have always wondered about is what the students mean when they say I am not like the other faculty — it must be something about formation.
I am not like the other Spanish professors in that I am from Comparative Literature and do not speak just Spanish and English; I am not teaching my native language or the one other language I speak well. It is a very great difference because my formation explicitly rejects nationalisms and theirs embraces them explicitly.
There is much more to say on these matters, so this post is another stand-in.
If what is formative is what you struggled for then we can say I:
– fought tooth and nail for reason and rationality (and no, not rationalization or false logic or emotionlessness)
– fought tooth and nail to go to a real university and not just a nice safe nurturing college
– fought tooth and nail to major in something intellectual, not just music or art appreciation
– fought tooth and nail not to be forced to housewifedom, not to get stuck out and have to marry someone to survive.
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.
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.
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.