Tea musings while listening to the rain
Random thoughts as I sit cozily in the warm house, sipping hot tea and listening to the rain slashing down madly outside:
I’m halfway through my first semester and so far the doctoral program has been… excitingly scary. Or scarily exciting — one of those. Both. Maybe. ;-j
Anyway, out of four classes so far, I’ve had one where I had utterly no idea what the professor wanted us to write about for one paper — despite understanding the individual words she used to describe what she wanted; clearly I am not a surrealist. In another the three required texts seemed to have damn little connecting them, while the professor said to write my final paper on “whatever you want!” which about drove me mad trying to figure out what to write! Ordinarily I wouldn’t worry, but these classes are not pass/fail, after all. One class is on-line, which is utterly fascinating but a struggle to keep up with due to the amount of reading. Also, when I mentioned my shock at having over 30 books to read for this semester, a fellow student who’s been there longer thought about that, then nodded slowly, “Yup… that’s about right.”
I know, of course, that we’re expected as doctoral students to be more proactive regarding our courses of study, but holy cow! Some small amount of direction on what the instructor would like us to write about would be awful nice. Still, on the whole I’m hanging in there and keeping up… mostly. Fortunately almost all the books we’re reading are fascinating. The tiny few which aren’t are at least dull but informative. There’s been one single one which I found appallingly bad — remember what I said about not being a surrealist?
Riding BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to class each Friday is a lovely opportunity for about an hour to an hour and a half’s worth of uninterrupted reading. I was fascinated to realize, however, what precisely it was which was causing me to feel uneasy on the short, three-block walk from the BART station to CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies), my school in San Francisco.
In some ways it’s embarrassing — I’m used to living in a diverse-ethnicity neighborhood, so I guess I’d gotten complacent. However, we’re all middle class here. Suddenly being exposed to people who are clearly living in poverty made me feel ‘off,’ like something was wrong and I didn’t quite fit in any more. They were louder than folks where I live, they moved differently than I was used to, I didn’t know what to expect from them…
Once I figured out I was simply having a classist response and wasn’t actually under threat, I was good to go, of course. I rather enjoy the walk now — at least when it’s not pouring down rain. Cold and wet = bleah! ;) Still, that tiny bit of self-examination was an interesting window on knee-jerk reactions. I think I understand a bit better now how this current anti-immigration hysteria in Arizona that we’re all hearing so much about came to be.
Rick: Why thank you! Alas, I shall not be breeding — you’ll have to take care of that for us all. :)
Bob: What, the straw in your coffee wasn’t surreal enough? Careful what you wish for, guy! :) Re hyper-rationality: I guess what I really want is logic with heart. I think Lady Augusta Ada Byron Lovelace (1815-1852), the first computer programmer, said it best when she wrote in a letter to her mother (who was adamant about her daughter receiving a hard-science education in a time where women weren’t considered intelligent enough to do so), “You will not concede me philosophical poetry. Invert the order! Will you give me poetical philosophy, poetical science?” If that means we allow for more intutive leaps and empathy with our subjects of study, then I think both we and science will benefit thereby.
Re cities: I like visiting them, not living in them. I prefer actually living someplace where I can still hear myself think.
Re criteria for success, I’d vote for the passing grade if we provide brownies for everyone. Heck, I’ll even add frosting on top, and we can make a party out of it for our last class! Oh, wait, we already did… and yes, you are correct: I love all the fascinating reading. ;)
Recognizing your innate, if personally distasteful, reactions is what sets you apart from the vast majority of xenophobic/homophobic/racist/intolerant people. We all have an inborn aversion to ‘them’, but only those who recognize this as a useless throwback to our pre-tribal days will allow us as a species to progress.
Collie, I think you the type of person least likely to believe we’ve succumbed to “excessive rational thought,” no matter your disdain for overly rigid establishments. Surrealism was, in some ways, supposed to be an anti-magnetic pole to what they saw as hyper-rationalism, creating art and thought so “anti-rational” as to pull people’s thinking out of the grip of false rationality, restrictive customs, and coercive structures.
While you have trouble with their method, I think you have some sympathy for their aims. I’m reminded of some of the folks I’ve met that have absolutely fascinating theories and insights and, when you ask them how they came to this understanding, they say something like:
Oh, one of my fae incarnations was a kryxtal harmonizer during the Second Atlantean Purge, and I learned it from a future-echo of my spirit guide.
OK, how much more surreal, and anti-hyper-rational can it get?
Which you love, at the same time it makes you crazy. :)
I think they’ve confused “self direction” with “no direction.” At the very least, they should have published some criteria for success. Attendance? X Papers of Y Quality? Brownies for everyone?
Are they even telling you what the hurdles are? Other than attendance, what gets you a good grade in these classes? Is it totally subjective?
You’re also not much of a “city girl” and don’t really like the kind of “busy all around” or “bustle” being in the city gives you. There’s always somebody (clean, dirty, quiet, loud, whatever) moving around and doing stuff, noise, moving vehicles, etc. It’s just different.
Instead of a rational response, you could have done something surreal. :)