08 March 2016


How slow the output has been of late—how unfocused the reading. I think I am not certain on where next to head. There are books started in every room of the house and rumpled half-read journals. On the iPad sit weeks of The New Yorker that I suspect will remain unopened—if that is at all the proper word for what happens to a text on a tablet. I have long been an advocate that education is the method of getting lost and being found: Adam Phillips (yes, The Beast in the Nursery one of the books opened and half-read) quotes Picasso: “I don’t seek, I find.” Not exactly true, I think. Phillips’ book concerns curiosity, and he looks to the child as the quintessential exemplar of the curious. The child is driven by his curiosity! I have not completed the book and as usual, I speak from not a little ignorance: but one thing I have attended to is Phillips’ statement that the “Freudian child is driven by questions and doesn’t believe any of the answers, except his own that he finds satisfying . . . He is addicted to, driven by, what he doesn’t know.” I have raised serious questions about how we have ceased teaching how in our deification of answers we have forgotten how to ask questions.
     For Phillips these questions begin with sex: with what goes in and out of bodies, and as we grow out of that childhood we lose our curiosity: perhaps our engagement in sex is partly responsible for that loss of curiosity. We learn what goes in and out of bodies: we engage in those entrances and exits ourselves. And clearly education is made complicit in that loss. Phillips writes that “Education, Freud implies, teaches the child either to lose interest in what matters most to her or to compromise that interest. Interest has to have something added to it, called education.” I have my entire life been engaged in education in one form or another, and perhaps my failure as a scholar results from too much education.
     Opposed to Picasso, I seek but what it is I am seeking for I do not know. I am assured (from all of my past experience) that I will something find: hence all of the printed matter. Often here I have started with politics but I do not intend to engage with those types. But perhaps that is why I have picked up George Eliot’s Felix Holt, considered her ‘political novel.’ Almost forty years ago I read Felix Holt during one idyllic summer, and have recently finished and adored her Middlemarch. Twice before I have read with great interest Daniel Deronda. There is something about her sentences that draws me in to a place where I am comfortable and where I think there is much to find. O flate outside the 19th century the only place I have found for my curiosity is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. I wish I could teach it so I could pursue my interest.
     So I suppose finally I will see if my curiosity finds some direction, or some place to reside for awhile. I wonder, what happens to curiosity when it settles into attention?


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