Et encore encore encore encore

I am again mortally offended, and it comes from another quarter. One cannot and should not defend against unfounded accusations, is what I have decided. And the university is falling apart, I am told.

In the meantime and on another topic: take care of yourself, do not worry about work, is another one of those advice truisms I am against. What if work is one of the ways in which you DO take care of yourself? What if it is NOT something you alienate yourself in or hide in, but something in which you build and strengthen yourself?



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In Reeducation it was not right to remain rational or to be peaceful, or to put things in perspective, as this was considered evidence of a “lack of feeling.”

At the same time it was not right to ever be stunned or caught off guard.

The opposite is true, of course, and I am still just beginning to see how bad Reeducation was.


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Formula and plan

Service: no nonsense.

Teaching: low expectations.

Research situation: vigilance.

Recreation and general self-care: a lot.

In Reeducation, as we know, I learned that I should not be the center of my own life or take authority in it. I learned to be apologetic about and ashamed of my various achievements and intellectual orientation. I learned I was not a person worth caring for. I am still trying to unlearn these things.


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La notte


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Los pasos lejanos

Mi padre duerme. Su semblante augusto
figura un apacible corazón;
está ahora tan dulce…
si hay algo en él de amargo, seré yo.

Hay soledad en el hogar; se reza;
y no hay noticias de los hijos hoy.
Mi padre se despierta, ausculta
la huida a Egipto, el restañante adiós.

Está ahora tan cerca;
si hay algo en él de lejos, seré yo.
Y mi madre pasea allá en los huertos,
saboreando un sabor ya sin sabor.
Está ahora tan suave,
tan ala, tan salida, tan amor.

Hay soledad en el hogar sin bulla,
sin noticias, sin verde, sin niñez.
Y si hay algo quebrado en esta tarde,
y que baja y que cruje,
son dos viejos caminos blancos, curvos.
Por ellos va mi corazón a pie.



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One of my friends points out, in a nonacademic context, that life in limbo is a hard thing to manage. This is a good observation and I think living in limbo is one of the main stressors of academia.

Of course you can say that uncertainty is everywhere but I am speaking of the constant feeling of limbo, waiting and waiting to get to a place where you are not terribly, distractingly, painfully uncomfortable and trying to hold out despite also knowing you may never get to such a place. Hanging on a rock wall as your strength goes.

The advisors think it is work that is your problem, or geography, to which you would resign yourself if you were a mature and fair person. But it is not the geography or the work, it is the atmosphere in which it is done and the way you and others are treated, that is the problem. Waiting for the pain to end, because it is immoral to do more than that, is the problem.

I wonder how much pain it is possible to cut out while staying in place. How much of the daily delivery of pain one can simply refuse. I have never quite tried that, but I might start now. I used to reach out and take pleasure, but Reeducation stopped this; I should do it more actively than I do even now.

My illumination for the day, though, is that “procrastination” and block are not about not knowing how to work, or discipline, or laziness, but about self-loss. I have pointed out before that they are also about delaying entry into toxic environments, but they are even more profoundly about self-loss.

The characters in El Señor Presidente live in the superego and the id, and have insufficient agency due to an insufficiency of self, says my student’s paper, and my colleague says the situation at our university resembles the one in that novel.



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Now, of course, I work calmly on the manuscript I could not so long ago, and this situation has nothing to do with having learned discipline or a method, it has to do with having resolved certain problems. So there is my last rant about Robert Boice and the Boiceans — this weblog having been, at an important time, my shield against inappropriate uses of Boice.

That final rant started because I made an offhand remark about Boice, that started a whole conversation. Really I am just irritated when people throw Boicean writing advice at those who are actually asking how to counter workplace harassment (for example) — I don’t mind his observations or advice per se, and I do agree that research and writing are wonderful shields against many negative things.

But I am calling this post new because there are certain kinds of pain I do not have any more, and am not really interested in talking about any more — and that I do not think it a good idea to stare at any more.


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