Language Artist

When I was teaching, I tried to induce among my students a functional understanding of the distinction between “lay” and “lie,” or between “who” and “whom.” I tried to show them the advantage of learning grammar and using a dictionary. But many of even the most intelligent writers in my graduate workshops, and for that matter many of my colleagues on the teaching staff, could not take it in. Why? they would say. What’s the difference?

When I told them that love and devotion are the root of it, they merely looked askance.

You choose correctly between “street car,” “street-car,” and “streetcar” not because the choice makes a substantive difference—it doesn’t—but because you care for language, you are in love with it. A good carpenter cleans and puts away his tools properly, so does a good gardener or a good cook, and no one will ever convince me that a worker who ignores his tools will do satisfactory work.

–Hayden Carruth, Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays

Like Carruth, I choose my words carefully. As a writer, I’m imperfect but never sloppy. Every human(e) word I use, in the end, is the Word of God. In my writing, however, I’m not seeking the Truth but speaking my truths.

In A Bad Brood

Writing about my depression briefly relieves my pain. The moment I describe what I’m feeling, I no longer feel (as) depressed.

As we say, write or read a word—the second we “have it”—the word slips away along with its meaning. I write down “depression”; depression and its meaning(lessness) slip my mind, only to return.

A pessimist might argue that writing about depression is a symptom of my depression. I say that as long as I’m writing about something I’m not lying in bed all day in a bad brood.

You Have My Word

“But there is a professional obligation for teachers and writers never to abandon hope.” –Sean Cubitt, Simulation and Social Theory (2001) p. 152

A major criticism of Baudrillard concerns the pessimistic nature of his prose. Critics find his cynical perspective blind to the possibility of hope. Cubitt’s quote speaks to Baudrillard’s tendency to describe with a poetic flair the symptoms of our cultural sickness without offering a viable course of treatment beyond letting society implode.

I argue that teaching and writing, as creative activities, are grounded in hope. The subject discussed in the classroom or textbook—be it uplifting or deflating—matters less than the fact that someone is brave enough to float an argument. It’s not the content, but the form of teaching, the form of writing, that deserves our focus.

Baudrillard wrote over thirty books and countless articles. His prolific output indicates an immense faith in the power of writing and its potential to change minds, even as he chastised the masses for caring more about consuming than thinking.

When composing a blog I hope to secure not just readers, but people’s imaginations. In connecting ideas, I’m looking for human connection. When I write about Baudrillard’s notion that we’re beyond transcendence, I realize there isn’t much to cheer about. But in reaching for thoughts that wander off the beaten path, I challenge the world, renewing through its exposition the promise of the written word.