Archive for November, 1997

re: to L on the NCHC listserve post

3. Honors students dropping out: We consider it a failure to lose anybody from the Program if he or she remains at UTC. We try to recruit students who can maintain a 3.5 GPA for four years. If they allow it to drop below this, they have not lived up to expectations (i.e., we have misjudged their abilities). If they drop out because they decide they don’t want to jeopardize their GPA, then we have misjudged their motivation to accept the requirements of a challenging program.

I have been hearing things about UTC’s honors program, and I their focus is alot different than is ours. I personally disagree with it. This problem has come up for me before in relation to our own honors program, in that I think that an honors diploma should be the university saying that this graduate came and fulfilled our highest goal. I think that maintaining a 3.5 QPA has next to nothing to do with why I am here, at least so long as I see a lack of a call to quality in many of my classes. I recognize its importance, but at the same time I do not think that it is an accurate measure of a students performance cognitively or emotionally. It is an inaccurate measure but unfortunately I am at a loss to come up with a better one.

I do not like the concept that a university education is about getting good grades, when getting good grades means memorizing facts or doing shoddy workmanship. I was talking to D last night about English 202 last night and the fact that I have a big chunk of pop quizzes missing. The pop quizzes are missing because I got to Keats and I didn’t understand him, so instead of skimming over it and forgetting about it, I took huge amounts of time and went through his stuff line by line trying to understand it. Doing tasks to my specifications is quality to me, and in many of my classes my grades are not about the quality of my work, but about when I get it done.

The UTC professors (I assume this is a professor, if this is a student, oh my gosh!) response grates on me considerably. It is loaded with elitism and fascism. There is not the concept that a student might have other interests or priorities, but simply that they weren’t good enough. I wish that there was some way for the university to recognize people who committed to working at quality rather than grades.

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j/s: a song for english today

In english 202 today were were to bring in pieces of songs that were meaningful to us to be part of a meta-poem that is going to be made. I had two songs, the first was “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty which I read to the class, but I was too scared to read the second, though it is by far the more meaningful to me. It is Nirvana’s rendition of the Vasilenes “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” it goes like this:

"Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam
 Sunbeams are not made like me

"Don't expect me to cry
 For all the reasons you had to die
 Don't ever ask your love of me

"Don't expect me to cry
 Don't expect me to lie
 Don't expect me to die for thee"

Even writing it now is hard, because I am doing it in the lounge with lots of people sitting around me. It is like doing something dirty; doing something that I need to be sneaky about because it is wrong.

I want to write on this and me and religion in general, but I have work to do now, so that will have to wait for later.

-Will

I got this song out and am listening it to check the words and it is incredibly painful. That appeals to me for some reason.

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j/short: on the last meeting

The really big thing that came up for me at the last meeting was prompted by what MM said about seeing this group not as a temporary thing that lasts while I am in college, but as something that I am a part of for the rest of my life.

When I looked around the room with that thought in my head things everyone looked different. Instead of strangers who I meet up with once a week to compare notes about how my life was going, these were friends who were there with me.

It is not really important to me right now the specifics of what happens in the future and what happens with the group. What was important was that I realized that I was holding a piece of myself back. And in seeing it I got a little closer to putting all of myself out there. My goal is not to be a part of a group that will stay together forever, though such a thing would certainly be wonderful. My goal is to learn to open myself and commit to the group that I am in.

I have recognized a statement in myself that has come up a couple of times in my relationship with D and I think that it is at the root of my distrust of opening up. T’s journal today reminded me of it some because it is closely associated with my mother. “If you open to someone they will take that opportunity to manipulate you and to hurt you.” This has come up alot over the years, usually when my parents want me to do something, what better way than to manipulate me into doing it. It is a Kohlberg 1-2 type of structure.

I remember once that my mother had planned to go to a local store with me so that I could buy something that I really wanted, but at some point before we were to go I did something that she didn’t like and she refused to take me. It was a really big deal to me. I remember thinking over and over how unfair it was and I even got up the courage to go and try to appeal my case, but to no avail. That is perhaps the last time that I remember throwing out alot of energy when someone did something that let me down.

I think that I learned that if you don’t rely on other people or at least don’t let yourself get emotionally attached to what they do, then they can’t hurt you and they can’t lord their power over you.

Last night I realized that was one of the things that I had been doing. There was a span of about three minutes where I was on the verge of crying and I thought I was hearing the same thing in a couple of other people’s voices. That was a really cool experience for me. I was picturing a cascade where one person goes and all of the rest follow. I think that would be a really cool experience to have.

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RE: teh book

I just picked this book up and started reading in the middle. I can’t answer these questions yet, but as I read more, if I notice any trends I will keep you up to date. In the preface which I skimmed this morning, the writers describe their progression through the book in as a path of four stages:

1. "from childhood questions and confusion"
	Childhood and Childhood's End
		Anne Dillard		"Skin"
		Maya Angelou		"Momma"
		Sherwood Anderson	"Discovery of a Father"
		Edward Rivera		"First Communion"
		Jessica Mitford		"Thirteen"
		Mark Twain		"The Mesmerizer"
		Marie Winn		"Children Without Childhood"
		John Holt		"Escape from Childhood"
		Jane Hamilton		"Rehearsing 'The Firebird'"
		Peter CJ		"Homework"

2. "to finding our identities vis-a-vis sex roles and community values"
	Femininity and Masculinity
		Lois Gould		"X"
		Alice Walker		"Brothers and Sisters"
		Maxine Hong Kingston	"Daughter"
		Alice Munro		"Boys and Girls"
		Susan Brownmiller	"Femininity"
		Virginia Woolf		"Professions for Women"
		Jan Morris		"To Everest"
		Noel Perrin		"The Androgynous Man"
		Sen Harrigan	"Answering the Howl"
		Scott Russell Sanders	"Reasons of the Body"
		Dave Berry		"Lost in the Kitchen"
	Communities
		Joan Didion		"On Going Home"
		Richard Rodriguez	"Going Home Again: The New
						American Scholarship Boy"
		James Baldwin		"Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter
						from Harlem"
		Toni Cade Bambara	"The Hammer Man"
		Edna O'Brien		"Sister Imelda"
		Gretel Ehrlich		"Wyoming: The Solace of Open Spaces"
		Anzia Yezierska		"America and I"
		Maya Angelou		"My Sojourn in the Lands of
						My Ancestors"
		N. Scott Momaday	"The Way to Rainy Mountain"
		H.D.F. Kitto		"The Polis"
		Plato			"Crito"
		Charles Murray		"What's So Bad About Being Poor?"
	Insiders and Outsiders
		C.S. L		"The Inner Ring"
		George Orwell		"Shooting an Elephant"
		Martin Luther King, Jr. "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
		Mary McCarthy		"Artists in Uniform"
		Brent Staples		"Just Walk On By"
		Roger Wilkins		"Confessions of a Blue-Chip Black"
		Perri Klass		"Learning the Language"
		Adrienne Rich		"Split at the Root: An Essay
						on Jewish Identity"
		Nadine Gordimer		"Which New Era Would That Be?"
		Liliana Heker		"The Stolen Party"

3. "to realizing how we are shaped by nature, technology, and media"
	Nature and Civilization
		Agatha Christie		"Butterfly"
		Annie Dillard		"The Fixed"
		E.B. White		"Twins"
		L Thomas		"Ponds"
		Melissa Greene		"No Rms, Jungle Vu"
		Isak Dinesen		"A Gazelle"
		Harry Crews		"Pages from the Life of a
						Georgia Innocent"
		Dorris Lessing		"A Sunrise on the Veld"
		Loren Eiseley		"The Brown Wasps"
		Brigid Brophy		"The Menace of Nature"
		Edward Hoagland		"Dogs, and the Tug of Life"
	Progress and Its Price
		Adam Smith		"Division of Labour"
		Henry David Thoreau	"The Fitness in a Man's
						Building His Own House"
		Daniel J. Boorstin	"Technology and Democracy"
		Aldous Huxley		"Hyperion to a Satyr"
		Jomo Kenyatta		"Gikuyu Industries"
		Carol Bly		"Getting Tired"
		Sue Hubbell		"Beekeeper"
		Alice Bloom		"On a Greek Holiday"
		Wendell	Berry		"Against PCs"
		E.M. Forster		"The Machine Stops"
	Media
		Randall Jarrell		"A Sad Heart at the Supermarket"
		Jerry Mander		"Advertising: The
						Standard-Gauge Railway"
		Gloria Steinem		"Sex, Lies, and Advertising"
		Kiku Adatto		"The Incredible Shrinking Sound Bite"
		Neil Postman		"Now . . . This"
		Garrison Keillor	"The Tip-Top Club"
		Katha Pollitt		"The Smurfette Principle"
		Barbara Ehrenreich	"Spudding Out"
		Beth Austin		"Pretty Worthless"
		Donald Hall		"Purpose, Blame, and Fire"

4. "to understanding the nature of our own understanding."
	Understanding
		Adrienne Rich		"Claiming an Education"
		Samuel Scudder		"Learning to See"
		Annie Dillard		"Seeing"
		Patricia Hampl		"Memory and Imagination"
		Frank Conroy		"Think About It"
		Carol Bly		"Growing Up Expressive"
		William J. Rodman	"When Questions Are Answers"
		Jacob Bronowski		"The Creative Mind"
		William G. Perry	"Examsmanship and the Liberal Arts"
		George Orwell		"Politics and the English Language"
		Susan Glaspell		"Trifles"

To make it short, yes I see a thought process outlined in the selections that have been made, judging by the titles and assumptions about the authors based on either recognizing them or guessing qualities about them based on a supposed ethnic background. I am not going into that now because it is so sketchy and because I am tired of typing, perhaps more will come later.

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j: little more on the second McCarthy quote

I think that this is the last little bit on the McCarthy quote:

I have been thinking about times when people will attribute things to the human condition or to human nature. This is why that frustrates me. How can they know? And the thing is that I think it has to be done by everybody. I can strip away layers and layers of ideas, unhealthy but eventually I come to axioms that cannot be supported except reciprocally.

It is interesting to me that I can put myself in the place of the Colonel and change his statements about what is fundamental about being human and have the same discussion that he has. Am I right? Is he? How can I tell?

-Will

“A man generally has the good or ill qualities that he attributes to mankind.”

-William Stenstone

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j: more on the second McCarthy quote

What I wrote at the end of the McCarthy quote is not what I originally intended. The relativism came up as I was typing and I forgot about my original intent. I was going to write on a similar theme concerning intuition.

At the Four Quartets workshop last night A was discussing intuition and allowing the right brain to process information rather than the analytical left brain, and a similar concept to what I wrote before is, “how do we know that the information that you get back from intuition is valid?” “Would it not be intuitively obvious that Jews are something less than everyone else?”

For me, I think that this very strong question has an effect on how my intuition works, namely I think it has severed the output. I think that I can feed information in, but I don’t get anything out. This is another question that I have; how does one go about utilizing intuition? I do the meditation exercise and I recognize that my consciousness is changing; it feels calmer and less pulled by outside influences. This is as opposed to going to +20 where nothing sticks and I feel like I am just spinning too fast for anything to affect me. It feels like information is going in, but once in I never hear from it again.

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j: the second McCarthy quote

Here is quote #2:

“‘Honestly,’ he was saying in lowered tones, as our drinks were taken away and the waitress set down my sandwich and his corned-beef hash, ‘don’t you, brought up the way you were, feel about the same way I do? Just between ourselves, isn’t there a sort of inborn feeling of horror that the word, Jew, suggests?’ I shook my head, roundly. ‘The idea of innate anti-Semitism was in keeping with the rest of the Colonel’s thought, yet it shocked me more than anything he had yet said. ‘No,’ I replied sharply. ‘It doesn’t evoke any feeling one way or the other.’ ‘Honest Injun?’ said the Colonel. ‘Think back; when you were a kid, didn’t the word, Jew, make you feel sick?’ There was a dreadful sincerity about this that made me answer in an almost unkindly tone. ‘No, truthfully, I assure you. When we were children, we learned to call the old-clothes man a sheeny, but that was just a dirty word to us, like “Hun” that we used to call after workmen we thought were Germans.’

“‘I don’t get it,’ pondered the Colonel, eating a pickle. ‘There must be something wrong with you. Everybody is born with that feeling. It’s natural; it’s part of nature.’ ‘On the contrary,’ I said. ‘It’s something very unnatural that you must have learned as a child.’ ‘It’s not something you’re taught,’ he protested. ‘You must have been,’ I said. ‘You simply don’t remember it. … In any case you must rid yourself of that feeling. It’s psychopathic…'”

Okay, my question throughout all of this is, “is there anything inherent in being human?” I can see the dialogue between McCarthy and the Colonel as two people saying the same thing just disagreeing about the specifics. Both of them say that there is a right way to be that is inherent in being. How does one ascertain what this is and even if it exists? Is the Colonel just like me and the things that seem immediately apparent and natural feel to him like things that are immediately apparent and natural to me? Is there any basis other than opinion that there is a right way to do anything? If everything is based in opinion, then what right do I have to try to propagate my opinion over other peoples? I am thinking at the moment that I should just work to serve my own satisfaction because there is no higher goal to serve.

Any comments?

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j: quote and a brief commentary

I got a neat text book for a quarter at the used book sale that the English department had a while ago. It is called The Dolphin Reader and the back cover describes it as a “thematically organized collection of essays and short fiction suggest[ing] the path of individual development.” I picked it up and started in the middle the night before last and the first two stories that I have read, from the section entitled “Insiders and Outsiders” were George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” both of which are really good pieces. The piece that I am going to quote from now is the one that I read this morning, Mary McCarthy’s “Artists in Uniform.”

“Artists in Uniform” is a first person narrative describing McCarthy’s run in with an Air Force Colonel as she is traveling via train during World War Two. The “others” in this story are the Communists and the Jews.

The Colonel is a stereotypical representative of the 1940s – 1950s man operating with a strong ethnocentrism. His most pure group begins, not surprisingly with those most like himself, and tapers off in concentric spheres or rightness. We deal i the story with the Irish as the purest form of being, then other kinds of “Americans,” referring to patriots, and falling off rapidly with Jews and finally reaching the bottom with Communists. His primary way of discerning the worth of people is by how they are named. We get from him the rationale, in response to the identity of someone who has committed a wrong; “I can tell you one thing. They weren’t named Ryan or Murphy.” When challenged with the statement that there are Irish who are Communists he responds, “Oh hell, every race and nation has its traitors.” The one thing about the Colonel that breaks the stereotype is that he, as a child, broke from his family and from Catholicism, preferring instead to live a “practical life.”

McCarthy presents an interesting perspective, because she carries many of the Colonel’s qualities, but because she has a Jewish grandmother, and is herself 25% Jewish she has been forced to consider the situation in a different life; by the criteria that the Nazis are using in their genocide, she is considered to be Jewish. She says that “though I did not ‘hate’ the idea of being taken for a Jew, I did not precisely like it.” I think that though she had rationalized the concept of Jewish people as persons, it was not internalized. Communists are for her, like the Colonel, a foreign way of thinking that no right minded person would be.

There are two sections that I wanted to quote, the first simply because I like it and the second because I want to comment on it.

The first is McCarthy thinking to herself while she is talking to the Colonel.

“But the Colonel was scarcely listening. An impatient frown rested on his jaunty features. ‘I just don’t get it,’ he said slowly. ‘Why should you be for them, with a name like yours?’ ‘I’m not for the Communists,’ I cried, ‘I’m just trying to explain to you –‘ ‘For the Jews,’ the Colonel interrupted, irritable now himself. ‘I’ve heard of such people but I never met one before.’ ‘I’m not “for” them,’ I protested. ‘You don’t understand. I’m not for any race or nation. I’m against those who are against them.’ This word, them, with a sort of slurring circle drawn round it, was beginning to sound ugly to me. Automatically in arguing with him, I seemed to have slipped into the Colonel’s style of thought. It occurred to me that defense of the Jews could be a subtle and safe form of anti-Semitism, an excuse for patronage: as a rational Gentile, one could feel superior to both the Jews and the anti-Semites. There could be no question that the Jewish question evoked a curious stealthy lust or concupiscence. I could feel it vibrating between us over the dark table. If I had been a good person, I should unquestionably have got up and left.”

I think I’ll send the next one out separately; that’s all for now.

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j: more on 4Q

Here’s a little bit more that I wrote; I was interpreting part of the poem to relate to the Tao and D and E were trying to explain to me what they thought was going on and at one point before I understood what they were saying D stopped the conversation and said that we had to go on. This hurt me. I really wanted to see what they were saying, but we didn’t have time. This is what I wrote:

“So we get through this whole poem, big fat fuck. We accomplish nothing like the potential that we have. I would like to get all from this poem that I can get. I am getting my ankles wet, I don’t want to come back, but I really want to do this poem. I like the little tidbits that I get, but they make it all the worse because I get a taste of what I cannot have. I would think that with Elliot’s repetitive writing style this poem could drag us deeper and deeper into what he is doing, but we don’t get it the first time and the next time it catches us less than it could have and each successive time less and less until there is nothing.

What should I do? Should I just get over it and take what I can get from this workshop? Should I come back? I want to do this alot, but the thought of doing it this way hurts me.”

I think that there is so much lost in doing this poem this way. I think that it is not only lost for me and the people who have done it before, but it is lost for the people who have no idea that they are losing anything.

I really like what we are doing, but it is becoming harder and harder to do. I recognize that I am not attaching to doing this poem. After my first dump I cut back some and didn’t allow myself to get really involved in the poem for a bit, but then I started to come back in and I was hit again. After that I moved to the couch and just laid there with my eyes closed. I was listening, but I wasn’t there as much as I could have been. Eventually after the next break I packed up and left.

This is very hard for me. I want to get involved with the poem and start to shift into it, but I know that I can’t. I can sit there and try to pick out individual neat little ideas that Elliot has, but I can’t try to bring it together as a cohesive whole and I can’t shift into other people’s perspectives because that takes too much time (I mentally spat the words “it takes too much time” out, as in forceful and disgusting.) If I could do one stanza of this poem completely as I can, then my weekend would be well spent. I would much rather do that then skim all the way through. Depth takes time and effort and it is very hard for me to reach. I won’t say that the weekend does not have some very important values; it does. I think that our time would be better spent seeing how deep we could go, rather than covering everything at a lesser depth.

I was thinking about what D said about the importance of the end of the poem, and honestly I don’t know because I don’t remember the end of the poem. The purpose of this weekend was not for me to get the ideas in T.S. Elliot’s Four Quartets. Elliot was a very interesting guy and I am sure that his ideas are really cool, but my purpose is not to understand this poem. I am at the FourQ for an opportunity to change myself and to discover some new things in the context of the 4Q. The depth is my first priority; the poem is secondary.

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j: quick dump on 4Q

I am very frustrated. I did the four quartets workshop last year and at the end they couldn’t get done by the time that they wanted to be done so they shot through the last part of the poem and I couldn’t keep up and everything fell apart. They are already talking like they plan to do this again. I don’t understand why. I really enjoy doing this poem, but I don’t want to get involved with it knowing that tomorrow they are going to speed away and I am going to lose it all. It is painful for me to think about this. I like doing this and I don’t like it when I can’t keep up. I do not think that other people can go into depth much faster than I can; I think that everyone else seems willing to sacrifice the quality of this workshop so that we can get done by tomorrow night. I don’t see why we couldn’t just do part of it and do it well. I can’t half ass things like interpretation. I can either skim and just let all the words go through my head and out the other side, or I can do it right and really go into it. I have alot of trouble moving on in my interpretation when there are things that I don’t understand. Wayne calls it SJ, but I think that it is a very effective way of reading. I recognize areas where if I don’t have enough information to make a judgement it is advantageous to be able to move on, but that’s not what we are doing. We are going to sacrifice quality when it is not necessary. I don’t want to be here and half way do this. I do not believe that we are going to do it well. Doing it well takes time and we are not willing to commit that.

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