To Play the Fool


There has been a little voice speaking from the back of my head lately, the slightly exasperating but acutely observant personality that likes to notice actions that betray themselves to analysis and critique.

I don't often dwell on personal things; It helps that I don't welcome instense relationships or tense situations into my life. I like my drama to be on canvases, in texts, on stage and in waves of beautiful sound curling around me. I like to feel my drama on the level of thought, not on the level of basic emotion. But all that means is that when I am confronted with some sort of personal trial, I'm not so good at managing it.

And that's a lot of unnecessary words to say that I'm just worried about the next step of applying and being accepted to a PhD program. I have no patience for following trends in academia; I have no desire to schmooze with the right people; I don't even know what the different catch phrases are in the worlds of academic philosophy and art theory. I used to think these were necessary and desirable things to know. I wanted to be able to construct bulleted outlines of philosophers, great ideas, shifts in paradigmatic belief and thought through time periods. When I was planning on a PhD in art history, I would want to be able to produce the same bulleted crap, only with key movements, shifts in patronage, introduction of techniques and visual representation.

I dropped every single on of those aspirations, along with the silly desire to be able to hear the name of some figure of historical or philosophic importance and immediately be able to list achievments, influences, importance. I actually wanted to know jargon (I despise jargon).

It all just felt so hollow, so entirely opposite of what my mind was actually moving toward. I love to imagine the sort of true erudition that can call up these bulleted lists and concise descriptions simply from a profound wealth of knowledge; a dynamic, coursing, changing stream closely held within the banks of the mind--but the lists and synopses shouldn't really come first, should they?

And so I thought I'd turn my back on "Academia," a place that sounds like it belongs in a painting by Watteau and recalls King Arthur's comment in Monty Python's In Search of the Holy Grail-- "On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place."

But I don't know how not to go! My mind is a feeble thing when it's not supported by the thoughts and conversation of a group of people. I don't think as well as when I am reading and discussing and moving forward. I can only muse on nature and lovely things for so long before I wish had instead fallen silent in the presence of some truly excruciating thought or idea. (For the record, that's not a glamorization...there really are excruciating thoughts and there are ideas that make you so uncomfortable within yourself, so utterly confused and be-riddled that nothing will do but to keep puzzling and working and trying).

So I'll go to this silly place where I'll again have to face pretension, where my own pretensions and inabilities will be trotted out and examined, where I'll fall in love with voices and minds, with certain lines of text and the odd full page. But to get there I must first jump through their hoops, be humbled by their terms and systems and structure.

Such fractured creatures we are, so full of certainty that we have achieved that unity or stability we thought we wanted, only until we remember those two classic phrases:

"Know Thyself"
"The unexamined life is not worth living"

There's another voice in my head that has a thick black mustache and likes to remind me that a dishonest life is one not worth living. He also likes to tell me to shut up before this post degenerates into a pity party chock full of sound bytes and furious rants, signifying nothing.