Monday, May 13, 2013

Bob Dylan's "Day of the Locusts" is my new theme song for my experience in higher education. Yup, he sums it up quite nicely, my experience. I pursued four degrees, trying to learn how to write. It was definitely a mixed bag of magic and dust. The magic came from reading every poem I could get my hands on; the dust came from trying to be somebody.

Competition in academia, at least in the backward provinces, isn't pretty. I am relieved for the most part that I have escaped the strange distances between people that occurs. This is partly from rejection, partly from needing to find some recovery for my illness, and partly from the current the universe has me gliding quite nicely through these days.

Someone close to me insists that part of my difficulties came about due to the fact that I am not upper middle class. He believes selling oneself is a learned behavior from the economic background of the individual. I spend the majority of my time interacting with people who have had no higher education in a different way than than my failed efforts to communicate with academics. I am quite successful among meth-heads, crack smokers, brilliant schizophrenics and the roller-coaster moods of a friend. I can negotiate this landscape. It is difficult after being in school forever and NOT in this world-- a world of honesty, anger, open rudeness and yelling!

I mean this stuff quite seriously. I do not believe the language of the educated is superior, it's just a different language. It's a privileged language, a language deemed necessary for success. And oh success, that two headed snake, that lying son-of-a-bitch, that mummified fate. But the question here is how much does economic background affect "fit" and "comfort" in such settings?

A friend's father is a prof at Berkeley and he, the father grew up quite poor in New Mexico, but he too had to learn the lingo. The friend speaks up and feels what he has to add to a conversation is pertinent, necessary and meaningful. Usually what he says doesn't make a lot of sense, but once in a while he'll pull off a zinger wit-filled comment. It's amazing how many people will nod and approvingly compliment him when he makes no sense. This is academia at times.

I just now recognized that the father didn't let go of his straight forwardness, and this perhaps has hampered him in academic settings. Mostly he put his nose to the grindstone and published like a mad man. This too works?

Watching videos of David Foster Wallace discussing education is interesting too. He too seems to believe there's something dry and distant and that many people teaching aren't into the teaching.He is critical of avant garde fiction, calls it "un-fun." I don't know. I know there's often a sense of supremacy in the academic ideal, that one be producing, hustling, marketing, networking, interacting, schmoozing (you hear this openly!) And yet, I think the story, the "real" story in my life lately is working-class people, downtrodden people, people who live simply. And yes, this can get frustratingly difficult. For example, I don't watch much TV and this makes me appear alien and out of touch. How can I NOT watch American Idol like an addict needing a fix? But fact is, I love my friends. They are cool. They don't write and yet come to every reading cheering me on, and even though they can't afford a book, they are there genuinely, happily and best of all they like my poems, especially my curse poem to 7-11. They get it. They get me, and this makes me a million times healthier than dealing with someone at CU coming into my office, snubbing me about not having read so and so.

No. I read people.

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