"I'm serious. Is there anything more glorious than a professor? Forget about his molding the minds, the future of a nation -- a dubious assertion; there's little you can do when they tend to emerge from the womb predestined for Grand Theft Auto Vice City. No. What I mean is, a professor is the only person on earth with the power to put a veritable frame around life -- not the whole thing, God no -- simply a fragment of it, a small wedge. He organizes the unorganizable. Nimbly partitions it into modern and postmodern, renaissance, baroque, primitivism, imperialism and so on. Splice that up with Research Papers, Vacation, Midterms. All that order -- simply divine. The symmetry of a semester course. Consider the words themselves: the seminar, the tutorial, the advanced whatever workshop accessible only to seniors, to graduate fellows, to doctoral candidates, the practicum -- what a marvelous word: practicum! You think me crazy. Consider a Kandinsky. Utterly muddled, put a frame around it, voila -- looks rather quaint above the fireplace. And so it is with the curriculum. That celestial, sweet set of instructions, culminating in the scary wonder of the Final Exam. And what is the Final Exam? A test of one's deepest understanding of giant concepts. No wonder so many adults long to return to university, to all those deadlines -- ahhh, that structure! Scaffolding to which we may cling! Even if it is arbitrary, without it, we're lost, wholly incapable of separating the Romantic from the Victorian in our sad, bewildering lives..." (11-12)Besides the fact of his being entirely correct about us needing order and structure (I confess, I'm a little bewildered at the thought that if indeed I am successful in getting a job as a book editor, I'll no longer live within the context of a "school year"), I think he's hitting on something deeper. What astounds me about atheism is the courage that it has to take. I would be absolutely terrified if I thought there was no higher being than myself. Sure, I'm responsible for a lot, but there's someone up there infinitely more intelligent and powerful who has things under control. Not that professors are God or anything, but weren't there certain teachers or professors you've had that you could sit and listen to all day long, whose store of knowledge and experience and understanding of the world was monumentally impressive? Humans like having a reliable authority, someone they can go to for the answers, someone they can always trust to explain what's going on. I remember my mother telling me once, "I have no advice to give you. You already know everything I would say." I was horrified! Outraged! Really, really scared. I experienced a similar feeling of shock when I went to an old professor of mine saying, "I've just finished Wise Blood, and I need help understanding what's going on here." He responded, "I've never read it, but I've seen the movie." Well, I was dumbfounded. He's supposed to know EVERYTHING. He's supposed to have read everything. Luckily, based on his knowledge of Flannery O'Connor and the movie, he was still able to help. So, like the speaker above says, professors can't frame all of life for us -- though we might view them as deities at times, they are only minor ones, each with their own sphere of knowledge. But if you have a good university, guess what? All spheres will be covered! And it will be organized and neat and tidy, and the constant evaluations would keep you on your toes, help you understand the world, and, ultimately be a superior form of yourself. Life would be better. So, the conclusion? EVERYONE SHOULD GO TO GRAD SCHOOL!!! Who's paying?
Thursday, June 21, 2012
The Glories of Professorship and University Life
A few weeks ago I sent out a request asking for reading recommendations for the summer. While the Barnes & Noble in Manchester is sadly inadequate, it did have one book on the long list I received: Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl (Thanks for the suggestion, Marisa Wolfe). I'm only 60 pages in, so I'm reserving judgement, but so far there have already been a number of passages that made me wish I had a pen or pencil on me. Here's one of them for you. The father of the main character is a university professor, and very much in love with his job, as the following passage indicates: