I’m writing this as I’m heading home on BART from the one class I had/chose to take in this year’s CIIS Intensive. It’s kind of a huge relief that I didn’t have to take all the Intensive classes this year, which requires spending a week and a half again in San Francisco. This was far less costly — I shared a room with a sister scholar for only two nights, instead of eleven nights spent in a singleton room. It was far less exhausting this time too. On a random side note, I feel sorry for the new students, since it sounds like the writing class sucked just as much this year (though for different reasons) as it did last year, too.
I seem to have really lost the luster on this program, and from things I’ve heard I’m definitely not the only one. People are wondering if there are enough students applying for/being accepted into the program, since core classes are being cancelled, and there don’t seem to be enough profs to go around — especially for things like advisement and thesis/dissertation committees. It doesn’t help any that the current head of the department is new and overloaded, the previous head of the department is off on (indefinite?) medical leave, and the remaining on-site people hired full-time by the program seem to be rather disconnected or disinterested. They all have my sympathies, but I’m going to take the advice of the wise woman who told me I should make the program what I needed it to be, and move on.
Now I’ve been there again, I don’t think I really like San Francisco. Admittedly, I know it best through Market and Mission streets — maybe it’s gorgeous and wonderful elsewhere. However, Mission was a dive last year, and this year it’s being aggressively worked on — lots of buildings being remodeled, lots of unhappy displaced homeless, lots of “For Lease” signs. Is it just me, or was Mission filthier this time too? More trash and poop on the streets, and me less comfortable walking there.
Well, the strange and wonderful still abound, I suppose, though I wasn’t really looking for them this time — I was there for only two nights and three days. It’s still astonishingly expensive too, though I did very much enjoy the (slightly overcooked) Valencian paella I shared with a sister scholar one night. The class I took was on dreaming, and I learned some nifty things there as well. I think I agree with my sister scholar, though: there’s a real cognitive dissonance between the emotionally grounded, deeply embodied learning which we are being taught — compared to the windy, dirty city and the zombie-trudging, worn gray homeless we walk through each day to get to and from class.
I asked a question in class which I’m going to repeat here: so many people long for a better world, and so many have tried to make one. So… what happened?
Why are we stuck in such a dismal and destructive urban perspective? Why are there still despairing people starving and lost, when so many people say they want to help improve things? Where are we going wrong? What is it in this world which eventually strips us of our dreams? How do we get them back?