Category Archives: Da Whiteman

Pour penser

I would not frame the discussion in terms of success and failure, instructions for success, but I think this post gets closer to a useful discussion of how to do an academic job than do most in the genre. The activities it discusses are, of course, the ones that interest me and also interested me in taking this direction.

In my case the question is complicated, of course, since I was not raised to think I would ever be able to do anything. And my father was a professor and said he was unhappy. He thought going into academia was a poor idea, and did not think I could survive in it. I, of course, did not think I could do anything at all, yet knew I could do academic work and was very interested in it. I was careful each year of graduate school to make sure the main reason I was continuing was that I was interested, not that I was trapped; and to make sure I was working to lessen the factors that had made graduate school my only option when I was twenty.

I always felt I should quit to please my father, and I always felt one could not commit fully, since one would probably not be let in. And I haven’t always had the best of luck, or made the best informed choices, but these things, no matter how serious (and they are serious), are secondary. The primary issue is the early and constant message: you must renounce now what you love because it will never love you.

My father loved this song. It seemed to express much of what he felt and to comfort him, but it terrified me. I already knew my parents were afraid of ending up on the streets themselves, and ambivalent about us. Would they put us on the streets if they could? Would we ever be able to hold onto anything we loved?

And these things are all true and must be acknowledged but at the same time, I am so tired of them. I would like to work as I did in graduate school, days of innocence, when the work itself was healing balm.

Axé.

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On giving up what you love most

I was saying things about academia, how I dislike it because it requires you to renounce the things you love most about it. That is about working at institutions that work against your programs, of course, and I won’t say this is not a real problem, and that it is not highly irritating. But “renouncing the things you love most” means something more to me, I realized as I heard myself speak.

“I don’t have the money to keep you.” That was what my mother always said, and she kept saying it even though she had the money. We were to be cast out, it was a daily danger, and she was to commit suicide, and that was a daily danger as well. Again and again I prepared myself for these losses and although they did not actually take place, the psychic one kept being repeated. Every day we were told, every day we renounced and steeled ourselves; every day we knew we would be abandoned, and love was withdrawn.

I always appreciated and felt affection for my mother, but I do not remember loving her. One could not love her, she was too coercive, cruel, weak and vindictive too often, and she might commit suicide any day. She was also a potential role model, and that was risky. If I got too close, I feared, I could become death-oriented like her, and I did not want this.

Just now I was thinking irritably about how foolish it is to accuse people of insufficient love (“you don’t love the university enough, if you did, you would put up with this!”) when they have in fact gone so far as to renounce what they most love to prove this love — renounced their own work and their better judgment to be polite to fragile power. I realized suddenly what this meant at another level: it means I must have loved my mother once. I don’t remember when I had to stop but it was very early on, and it must have been very painful because I have repeated it a few times, to try to get over it and also to try to see it; this also explains the reactions I have when I am asked to sacrifice or renounce.

People really should not have children to amuse themselves or to claim an identity. They should also not threaten suicide around their children. With the suicide threats, and also the accusations having to do with our failure to fill an emptiness, I remember renouncing love again and again. I remember the toy I held in my hand one time, watching my mother sail away from me as it were, and saying, “Good-bye, my honey. Good-bye, my honey.”

I can see it now. It must have been devastating, and I know there were many such scenes.

Axé.

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Alguien dijo

“One must do what is central to one’s self before anything else.”

It is interesting because I still do not, or do not really know what that thing would be as I do not do it. What I must do first is take care of Mother; second, I may choose what I like best from the menu she gives. That is all.

What would that thing be? People keep telling me I do not know what I want, or do not want what I should want enough, but that is not true. It is a certain kind of setting I want, and activity, and atmosphere, and autonomy.

Axé.

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Writing begins with forgiveness

For me, writing always begins with self-forgiveness. I don’t sit down and rush headlong into the blank page. I make coffee. I put on a song I like. I drink the coffee, listen to the song. I don’t write. Beginning with forgiveness revolutionizes the writing process, returns it being to a journey of creativity rather than an exercise in self-flagellation.  I forgive myself for not sitting down to write sooner, for taking yesterday off, for living my life. That shame? I release it. My body unclenches; a new lightness takes over once that burden has floated off. There is room, now, for story, idea, life.

I put my hands on the keyboard and begin.

Voir le texte entier.

Axé.

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Sur le temps

I, too, dislike scheduling to death because it is altogether too intimidating. A schedule is good but it must have a great deal of empty space in it.

But I am more than ever convinced that scheduling and time are small issues. It is far more fundamental not to allow unbearable pressure, to do what you like, and to speak kindly to yourself.

In Reeducation I learned that these were coping mechanisms; they would make you feel well and you lose access to the truth of your situation. This is false.

I do have difficulty discerning what I like; it is only easy to see what I do not object to.

Do I like my profession? Not at the level at which I am asked to practice it, no; nor in these conditions. Could I? Yes. Is it the only one I could like, or the one I would like the very most? Not necessarily.

My question is, why does academia require this kind of loyalty? Why must one say it is the best and the only, and not just that out of the things one could have done, it was what one opted for?

Axé.

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Dreams

This was a draft post from three years ago. I had been asked to join yet another honor society and did not want to, I don’t have that kind of disposable income and if I did I would donate it elsewhere. But the chapter really wanted more people, needed me it said, and I was in physical pain for days over saying no. That, as I say, was only three years ago.

Recently I had a nightmare wherein I was in high school and my parents were trying to live my life for me. Do my homework, go to my classes, wear my clothes. I escaped down the street but they chased me in the car I have now. That car, it occurs to me, is a one they gave me when the car I had died and I got tenure.

Axé.

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Cecilia Valdés — yes it is the patriarchy

Someone said,

If this question was asked in my class, I would ask them to think about how patriarchy creates mechanisms of punishment and reward in order to keep itself in power. Patriarchy believes it gets to have 24/7 access to the bodies of social subordinates – most often women – but also men who are in positions of subordination. Sexual power over others is one of the most important tools of patriarchy.”

Axé.

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