April 15, 2013

… and having finished my essay at one and sent it in (late, overdue, but still proud of myself for something vaguely less shoddy, vaguely more stable than my usual haphazard scholastic output), I spent the next while alternately reading this article on a singular academic hoax, mulling over the insight it gave into the academic life of journals and critiques, publishing and tenures, the assertions of truth and its justifications and traditions, and skimming through this blog by a postgrad friend who looks likely to continue in academia.

it’s close to three and I’m thinking about academics and research and how I’m only now beginning to realise the importance of things as simple as the rituals of essays. how the stuff you do in your undergrad and as a kid in school is practice, both training and testing ground to sieve out those who were made for scholarhood, distilling truth into clearly argued, innovative articles in journals and lengthy monographs. it’s its own little ticking world, scholarship, with critique against critique against critique, opinion against rigorous opinion of truth, and yet from this is our popular understanding of the everyday filtered down, right or wrong as the result is.

I think one of the reasons I didn’t cotton onto this earlier was because I was doing theatre, and despite all the fascinating theory and scholarship that exists on it, theatre is eminently practical, experienced, done. theatre is about people and connection and experience and beauty (felt or seen, sublime or profane) and emotion (but all art comes from, seeks to reach, emotion). the little practice rituals of beginner’s academia felt like an unnecessary addendum to something so lived. maybe that’s just how I interpreted it, but I’ve always been more interested in the raw intuition-and-gut-effect of art than I have in the rational-and-argument of science.

(and yet I still loved theatre theory)

and now I’m doing theology, which is in itself a type of science, or perhaps when I say science I mean academia, or theoretical examination, or perhaps I mean science. and it’s interesting how much more respect I have for my lecturers, now that I have more insight into what it means to be an academic.

I think I’m beginning to understand scholarship a little better; I’m learning a lot, and I’m glad to be learning this. I don’t know if these are waters I want to stay in, though, and something in me doesn’t think I was made for them; much as I enjoy the challenge of analysis and theory and Being Rational and working within structure and tradition, much as I love being taught new things, nothing quite lights me up in the same way as the shape and colour and meaning of words do, and stories, and the sheer ineffable beauty of Robert Hass’s sentences, and the depth of the colour red, and the dusty gold light on the road at dusk, and streetlamps on a cold night, and Arvo Pärt’s Berliner Messe, and the satisfaction of Patricia McKillip’s short stories and Robin McKinley’s novels, and the joyous maddening chaos of Chesterton, and sitting in a theatre with lights coming up after a play realising that your old world has been taken over by a new one and you are ineradicably changed, and Larkin’s silence, and Dylan Thomas’ luscious sloeblack, slow, black molasses of colour and rhythm and vividness, and Hopkins’ joy, and the electric fizz of city streets at night with crowds and faces and voices, and the slow mass of clouds over a train station, alight with glory, and distant birds, and Morten Lauridsen’s contre qui, rose, and the unctuousness of roast pork, and the smell of winter and the push of the wind when you’re wearing a big coat and trying to make your way down Taranaki St, and tea steaming in the crisp light of a winter morning, and the perfume of a passer-by or an old book that brings back a memory you can’t quite gather in, and old bookshops lined with stairs lined with books, and the unspeakable elegance of wristbones and the vulnerability of people’s hands, and fat ugly pigeons, and the shape of the Nicene Creed in Latin in your mouth, and the sudden springing up of Auden’s rhymes at odd times, and strange unwinding lamplit streets at night with a woman on the corner in pink pajamas, combing her hair and giving you directions, and the first line of James Wright’s Saint Judas, and the chuckle of a banjo, and Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia, and stretching out for sleep in the dark in cool sheets and silence, and waking up to linger undisturbed in the warmth of hollows your body makes in the bed, thinking lazily of nothing much at all, and the weight and passion of a voice in the book of Isaiah or Hosea, and the drag and billow of curtains like lungs, and the way words fall and tumble and trip and taste and sit in the ear and the eye and the mind, and the goodness of it all-

and that was a severely lengthy paragraph, particularly if you’re not a fan of the Oxford comma-

reading the article on the academic hoax, I was distinctly glad to remind myself that this isn’t where my life will go. I have a deep respect for scholarship, and would it be thinking too much of myself if I said that I believe I’m intelligent enough?- but the only patience I’ve ever really had for working, really working hard and fluently on something without even the idea of grumbling or restlessness or anything other than total absorption, has been in the creation of things.

I don’t know how any of this will go. but I know what delights me and what I can do, and I have, somewhat, a direction. it’s a start.

(and now it’s almost four)


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