“I am not a writer, a philosopher, a great figure of intellectual life: I am a teacher.”—Michel Foucault
A friend said recently, “Maybe you just like to think a lot. It’s not a bad thing, just who you are. A lot of philosophers are writers.”
I found this statement odd at first. Am I a writer or a philosopher? Why can’t I be both? In fact I have been all along. It’s silly to separate the two.
Something’s going on beneath the surface when I’m writing and philosophizing. I’m teaching. In fact I’ve been teaching all along. This blog is full of questions. My book is an exercise in self-discovery and a search for meaning you can hold in your hands.
Foucault was a teacher, but he was also a writer, a philosopher and a great figure of intellectual life. He loved ideas. He had a tragic sense of humor, perfect for (post)modern living. Like all great teachers, he checked his ego at the door and listened before speaking.
I’m not a certified classroom teacher. Why can’t I become one? Because I assumed fifteen years ago I couldn’t handle it? Because running from a challenge was easier than taking it on? I’m in a different place now, but with the same personality, the same interests, the same worldview.
The universe is not impartial. The gods have no regrets. Fate doubles back to meet us where we’ve gone astray.
My dad liked to say that in life people are free to choose their own confinements. He chose to become a teacher and found himself confined to the classroom. He chose to become a father and when I arrived he built a life based around my mother and me.
I say that our confinements help us appreciate the limited amount of freedom we have. By becoming a teacher my dad was not a librarian or a fireman or starting first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. The classroom became his world. He was bound by district rules, standardized tests, report cards and textbooks. But he had the freedom to teach Hamlet or the five-paragraph essay as he saw fit. He encouraged students to follow their passions, even though as teens many thought little of the future.
I’ve heard a theory that the major events of our lives happen no matter the daily individual choices we make. My dad was in a way destined to teach—maybe not in Chicago, maybe not English—but still a teacher. Even after his initial dream of becoming a minister wasn’t realized, he wanted to help people—lifting their spirits, nourishing their minds. Minister or teacher—he was in the same ballpark.
Oftentimes we try too hard to force the action in our lives. We push for things we think we want, only to see them escape our grasp. Then there are those opportunities we never considered, appearing out of nowhere.
There’s power in submitting to the possibility that my life follows some kind of destiny. Accepting the will of the universe and learning to live with myself? How freeing.
I wasn’t happy with my original Page Not Found post from May 7, so I refreshed it and deleted the old one.
Books are self-contained bodies of knowledge. Readers searching for deeper connections are free to scan their references and head to the library for more books. This is the tradition of scholarship.
The Internet is a sprawling, image-saturated map with no territory. It leads users on an open-ended quest for pseudoscience, celebrity gossip and mounting piles of pornographic truths.
Books are heavy. The Web is far more mobile.
There are apps today for everything, including one that tests kids’ “logo literacy.” Parts of logos are missing but enough remains for players to recognize the company. This is about purchasing power, and the production of future consumers. Knowledge means finding the best deals before the Joneses pull up in their minivans.
Reading entails patience, context and attention to nuance. Its pleasure is often deferred. Googling is the drive for immediacy, “just the facts.” It’s a data game rigged by clever search engine optimizers in which sources link but nothing clicks.
Consumerist culture is raising a generation of browsers with no history but the accumulation of cache. Few can sit still long enough to digest the news.