Galesburg, Lake Storey, Geese # 1
Silence here doesn't tell well enough what the rest really looks like. Yesterday's work day started at 3 in the morning with a long email to students about event planning and prevention of dropped balls and another to Deanie about a self-designed major proposal on which I'd dropped balls of my own and other emails from students asking about thesis proposals and homework and appointments with me and a little more class prep and a glance at headlines and scarcely time to get in the office door before teaching, which took me right up to noon when my in-box was full again with documents to print and prep for the meeting at 4 and reading for the class I've been sitting in on at 2:40 three days a week and an exchange between faculty members about classroom renovation and all sorts of announcements about upcoming events, which I sorted and deleted as I could before writing to the events coordinator to ask for help with purchase order requests and running off to the publications office to pick up the mountain of submissions for the literary magazine which must be read and selected by Sunday night, forgetting, of course, to call the representative at our printers back, or to turn in a check requisition to the business office before rushing into class late, taking a few notes, and at the bell, returning to the office to find a panicked email from TSE who is visiting the college next week to call right away, which I did, taking 20 minutes from the 4 o'clock meeting to resend a flight itinerary and reconfirm with his agent that we did indeed purchase a flight, and somewhere in there to make photocopies of a few of his poems to distribute to the faculty per another faculty member's request before arriving late to the meeting across the hall, and sitting through the meeting, which took me up to nearly 6 o'clock, when I found D in the parking lot doing much the same as me and when I petted her new old dog, hugged her goodbye, then drove for home where I picked up a coat and drove off again to meet E and P for a bite, the first besides apple slices (thank you for apple slices) all day. Then home again, more email, a web search that turned up nothing, and bed.
And just now spent another 40 minutes (was it really?) responding to the question of classroom renovations. What you don't learn in grad school, the least of it is teaching.
From the comments below:
"The imagination is itself real, a part of reality. If I imagine (just to pick a random example) that I am a bird and can fly, I may be wrong, that may be a fantasy that has no correlation with reality, but my act of imagining it is a real act and exists as part of the total field of reality.
I'm not sure if the point is to "guard against fostering experiences that might distort my sense of reality," or to "guard against indulging fantasies that will potentially do violence to what is real," maybe not quite.
All of reality, all matter, is (among other things) a matrix of forces that act on each other -- gravity or electromagnetism, for example -- so that the universe as a whole is, in one sense, a field of various kinds of distortions. I think the point is to understand and perceive clearly (as clearly as possible) the distortions and fantasies when they occur, in order to make the necessary allowances for them in our thought and feeling and action.
This is maybe an extreme kind of hairsplitting -- I'm not necessarily disagreeing with what you're saying here, just perhaps preferring slightly different terminology." [L's response to my post]
Where do we diverge, L and I? I'm not sure we do. Of course the imaginative act is very real: art is a real thing, email is a real thing, responding to you as though I am making an imprint within this little window as I type is a real thing--all engaged and participating wholly in "the total field of reality" as acts, as movements. If not, creative acts would have no power to transform, subvert, revise, restructure, or enliven in any kind of real sense. But as it is, that transformative power is everywhere reflected in our cultural architectures as well as in the formation of individual consciousness. This is my point, exactly. Imaginative acts are not inert. They are not neutral. They are actively effective. They are biased, and most often profoundly self-interested.
And I'm taking a very broad interpretation of that term, too: imaginative act. One of the monks once suggested that to take pleasure in the coziness of warm morning coffee is to already be engaged imaginatively. --Not a bad thing, but recognizably already an imaginative act: and I couldn't work this out in my head for some time. I thought: coffee is real, pleasure is real, warmth is real, morning grogginess is real, they exist together, as I do with them, so what have I missed? And I felt a little defensive, thinking: why would you take my coffee from me?--you drink coffee! And I worried that gorgeous warm coffee right out of any sense of what Br T meant, into my own far reaching, deep stirrings of loathing for all needless (and even needful) forms of self-denial.
What I think he meant: denial of sensible pleasure is contrary to true realism. Again, body is that which I sense through that which has senses, body is temple, so for the seekers in monkland there is nothing productive in suspending the senses in doubt or in denying the experience of pleasure or pain. The point is that in the moment of experiencing that warm pleasure of coffee in morning fog, I'm then inclined to find this consolation satisfying in itself. I interpret it that way. I produce this consolation for myself, with my own means and towards my own end, as I do in all imaginative acts, in all artistic works, in craft, and in product-oriented labor, in which the end, purpose, goal, of the act is my own idea of it.
So there is a very important distinction for the monks between sensible experiences of real things and the imaginative acts which transform those experiences into consolations or traumas or even fantasies. Consolations and traumas and fantasies are personally constructed, are ideas--in an idealized sense--that I form emotionally and imaginatively (in real acts, yes) about real experiences. The warm cup of coffee in reality is not a consolation. I make the pleasure of it into a ritual consolation, possessively, self-interestedly, in the same way I might make a poem.
The consolation, the poem, is real, but what they present may or may not correlate to the reality of the experience. And you can see already how complex that presentation becomes. A psychological and physiological dependency on morning coffee is real, but that need was cultivated, created, through habit and a little work, and has now also become a distortion of what is really true: I don't need coffee to exist. There is nothing wrong in taking pleasure in coffee, but my growing dependency on it as a consolation is misplaced. Is unhealthy and disordered. Primarily because self-produced ends are self-limiting. I would be self-sufficient (I prefer my way to yours), but as it turns out, alone I am deficient towards my own end. I cannot grow and heal unless my dependency resides within a true other. Within a (not-idealized) friend. Within a Thou.
(Again, let me say that I'm not attempting to present my own speculations on the nature of the universe, but speaking from what I think I understand of the Brothers' Catholic monastic teachings, and I could very well get those wrong.)