Instruments register only those things they are designed to register. Space still contains infinite unknowns. Lt. Cmdr. Spock, “The Naked Time”, Star Trek, orig, aired Sept. 29, 1966 on NBC.
Something smacking of zen in those, and, again, my sympathy for the renzai school of zen buddhism, for the early gnostics, shines forth in the darkness of my perplexity. Sometimes, I feel the Academy brings me face to face with too many contradictions and conflicts—academics who dislike me on their surface reading of what they think they “know” of who I “am” and their readings of my presumed intellectual sophistication; the difficulty of being a person who loves writing and seeing the conventions of academic discourse as almost wholly aligned against what I enjoy most about writing; the faith in progress or that some kind of theoretical approach will have any ultimate validity on the messy, muddy ground. I know that I value gnosis as an ongoing process. In that, I am in sympathy with what, in my own lexicon, I might term the scholarly project, over and against the academic project.
“…that’s purely academic…”
“…you are a gentle(person) and a scholar…”
One is commonly used as a dismissal (or indictment), the other a form of high compliment delivered most often with something of wryness—a knowing harkening back to a past age, when, often as not, “scholars” seemed to be roving knowledge seekers with only a peripheral allegiance to The Canon and The Academy. So far as I can tell, the same thing which turned me off to University as a much younger man is the same thing which problematises my approach to it now, as a sort of rogue scholar—its stultified and bourgeois concern with normalizing and controlling, and generally choking all sense of playful inquiry or joy of the process of discovery. It seems frequently to occupy the role of the mother who hushes the inspired dancing of her young children, forces them to sit, quiet and bored, while she drones about Virtue, or Mission, or any of the innumerable topics favoured by ideologues, theorists, compulsive rationalists, grammarians, dogmatists…and academics?
I want to navigate this territory between academic and scholar, try to see if there is any kind of link between the two, a bridge burned long ago which might be repaired or re-formed in light of new things, ideas, people, places, situations. I have to say that, like Min-Zhan Lu (“Professing Multiculturalism…”), I do not mind attempting to navigate dangerous waters in service of this notion that knowledge is temporary and conditional, and that each person must take their own enlightenment into their own hands. I recognize of course, that there is the danger of apparent hubris, but, like Lao Tzu, I do realize that not everyone is interested in the project of gnosis, and many merely want to take their degree and collected roster of jobfacts and go. This is fine…but it is a project separate from mine, from my “pedagogical philosophy”, which at the moment seems centered off against the “transactional” notion of the University as a sort of enlarged Skinnerian project in service to the interests of the Corporate elites—more training at pressing the food-bar placed at the end of the electrified maze of “education.”
Min-Zhan Lu, “Professing Multiculturalism: The Politics of Style in the Contact Zone.” College Composition and Communication, Vol. 45, No. 4 (Dec., 1994), 442-458.