rough notes

45. olive trees

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things are well.

in the past while, i’ve networked, met, brainstormed, and debated with (too) many people from (too) many disciplines and fields.   The programme is keeping me busy, and assignment duedates are beginning to appear on the horizon, but it’s a nice kind of busy.  unlike this time last year – the second week into the programme, i’m not stressed out beyond the highest levels that the gauge will measure.  i’ve encountered a lot more faculty support for the students and for the programme itself.  and the students are a good bunch, too.  pretense is low and collegiality is high.  do i feel welcome?  yes, i do.

i’ve also found part-time work in the field.  i’ve been hired to work at the reference desk of my alma mater doing, well, reference stuff.  The shift is on Saturdays from 3 to 7, so I understand that I won’t be too busy, but I do expect it to be “busy enough” for me to put a few things learned into practice; hopefully I’ll get a good feel for how things work on the other side of the desk.  From a pragmatic point of view, i think it will help me out when it comes time to find a placement for the summer practicum (i.e. three weeks of unpaid work).  Although I’ve managed a lot of things and worked in the broad field of “information literacy” for many years now, none of my experience has been in an actual library – hopefully these four hours a week for twenty-four weeks will look good enough to on c.v. for a nice placement somewhere in may 2009.

picking up this shift meant that i had to work, again, my last shift of work at the local tourist dive.  i’ve left this place four or five septembers in a row now.  last september, and the one before that, i was real happy to be rid of the place.  i don’t like working there at all.  but having gone back to work a shift or two every week this past summer, i’ve come to really appreciate my co-workers.  i have some genuine life-long friends there who I’ve tended to overlook because of my one-track scholarly mind (surprise surprise).  The previous year, the year of my MA, perhaps the most frustrating year of my life (but definitely the year of my life which i was most hungry), I grew to be really annoyed by the pretense and arrogance of academics.  i’m pretentious and arrogant myself, i know that.  But I try my hardest to curtail this arrogance.  and for the most part, most academics do,too.  academics aren’t bad people by any stretch of the imagination.  but Academics, as in the culture of academics, specifically the culture of the humanities, is such an insular field.  we argue the hell out of anything.  and i wholeheartedly avow the fact that everything in this world must by argued to death – some one must be critical.  and i’m glad i can be critical of everything.  without trying to sound arrogant, i’m pretty darned happy of my ability to see things differently from most other people.  but what’s the use of seeing things different from others if you don’t spend time with others?  when the Ivory Tower Syndrome sets in, I grow uneasy.  And that’s how the MA was working out.  So, it was very nice to go work at the tourist dive again, and to see other who are as smart and intelligent and cultured and happy and nice and similar as my peer group back at grad school, but different enough to give me a breath of fresh air.  i’m a working man, a union man to the end.  i still identify with “common people” (scare quotes to refer you the statements and fun that Jarvis Cocker and Pulp were making), even though i’m no longer “common”.  My co-workers at the tourist dive aren’t “common people”, either.  there is no such as thing as “common people” or “common”.  but in my co-workers i found – nay, rediscovered – some friends and a sense of self I had lost or strayed away from.

This sense of self is more simple.  it’s a sense of self that is rooted somewhere in aiming for happiness or contentment as opposed to wisdom as a life goal.  this doesn’t mean i’m going to stop reading.  it means i’m going to redirect my attention back to the theme of one of my favourite texts, as opposed to talking about the theme of my favourite texts (and there is a big difference.  so meta).  I often refer to lucretius’s nature of things (which Suzuki refers, to, as well, in the name of his programme).  it’s a damn old text, and i read it a damn long time ago, back in the mid-90s.  after lucretius pontificates about various scientific things like the nature of the atom (he coined the term, if i recall), he writes that at the end of the day he just wants to find contentment, find some peace by leaning back on an olive tree and watching the sun set with his dog by his side.  or something like that.  it’s a moving moment.  lucretius spent 200 pages going on about hard science, being academic, literate, pontsy, and cerebral.  But he finishes it all off by saying it doesn’t matter if you can’t be happy.  that’s the aim.  find the olive tree.

one of my closest friends, Will, has always wanted buy an olive grove and to retire to greece.  Will would tell me this when we were 19 and 20.  I heard then the fun and contentment in his voice, and saw what he longed for.  but i didn’t understand its depth then.  i don’t know if he completely understood it then, either, but looking back on it, i think he was closer to this understanding than i might have been.  Will’s always been able to contextualize things better than me. he’ll tell me time and again how smart i am and praise my ability to link x with y and then back to a and b.  but in some ways it’s meaningless – it’s coming close to useless, if one can’t understand how it all works in the long run.  could Will see to the age or 60 back in 1995, 1996, an 1997?  I don’t think so, but I do realize he could look beyond our own feeble and youthful years to understand that there is a whole world out there.  I don’t think either of us could properly interact with the world then, but i think he had a better sense of its existence, at least.  understanding its existence is the first step, and then understanding how to interact in it is the second.  looking for contentment, i think, ought to be the end-goal of this interaction in and with the world.  i’m not suggesting i was blissfully and then bitterly arrogant for 30+ years of my life. I’m just suggesting that my time back at the tourist dive may have put some things back into synch.


Written by mitchellirons

September 21, 2008 at 9:51 am

Posted in blog

Tagged with , , ,

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