25 August 2008

Play ball!!

I am not opposed to ritual and tradition; indeed, I have based the whole last chapter of my new book on them. There, I speak respectfully, even religiously, of rituals and traditions and of my participation in them. I spoke there of how I like to ground my life in ritual and tradition. Engagement in rituals engages me in my present.

But these opening events at colleges and universities test my patience with their empty rituals and traditions. We sit at meeting after meeting, for hour after hour and nothing is offered there of which to partake, nothing is offered there about which to consider or to wonder; nothing is presented but meaningless enthusiasms and empty praises, none of which sustain. I think that if I must sit at any meeting, then that meeting should be no less stimulating than either my engagement in private study or a public class session.

But at this day’s waning, I cannot answer for today except to acknowledge that I was there, and though I can name where I was, I cannot say what, if anything, occurred there that demanded (or even acknowledged) my presence. I think that any participant in these traditional opening ceremonial events (even ones into which we are coerced, at a minimum, by demands of retention and tenure) should derive some meaning from these occurrences; there should be some spark of intellectual life and promise inherent in the welcomes and introductions and promises and annual and perennial budget fears. I should exit a meeting enriched and not enervated, stimulated and not sedated. I think I should leave these orchestrated venues ready for engagement in the classrooms and not dulled by reports which hardly concern it.

I mean, we purport to traffic in ideas, but none are today to be found.


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