Friday, September 15, 2006

Everything I Needed to Know about Academe...

***Full disclosure: The post below was written earlier in the week, and I've been quaking in my boots about posting it. How safe are we really, out here in the ether? How anonymous can we truly be? I do remember, however, the way that I've been so very comforted reading y'all's blogs; they've given me some powerful ways to understand what's happening in my own life, and that I'm not the only one who deals with these things. And so let's hope I can be somewhat helpful with the rant below...

Folks, it's been quite a week, and it's only Wednesday. I taught through last weekend, geared up for a Monday lecture series (which went quite nicely, BTW), taught classes and attended many meetings. By my count, I've now been working since the previous Monday, which means thinking about school--rather intently--every day for the past 9 days. This, as you may imagine, does not make Fluff a happy girl.

By far, the worst part of the week is dealing with some of my colleagues. I was really holding my breath and hoping that we had all secretly declared detente; we're all real tired of fighting and animus, so perhaps we're all ready to smooth things over.

No dice.

After an inordinately bad set of interactions in an official meeting and a set of emails, I stayed up at night desperately looking for a paradigm that would help me understand how to think about my relationships with some of my co-workers. Here's the problem I'm having: it's not the case that these people are evil and malicious. It IS the case that their ideas and actions have a detrimental effect on me (and my good friend Yogini, who you might remember from earlier posts). In fact, it may be that their responses to the world (eg., students need to have their education strictly regimented; some students, by dint of their major, are better than others; most are unworthy of our curriculum; in actuality, it would be better if they were trained in our field before they got to us; new faculty members, like students, need to ask for permission before suggesting any kind of change; in fact, the training and expertise of new faculty is definitively suspect--too influenced by fads and trends to be real intellectural work; etc.) are not designed to incite depression and anger--they just have that effect as a matter of course. So if they're not purposely creating situations to inspire anger and powerlessness, how can you really dislike them? Better yet, how can you even resist their claims?

And then it struck me--it's all about Harry Potter. Which of the magical creatures in the Harry Potter novels suck the hope, life, and joy out of you, replacing it with fear and sorrow? Which creatures do this not out of malice, but because it is in their very natures?

Ah, the Dementors. Did you get it on the first try? The very comprehensive Wikipedia entry on Dementors features an appropos quote describing their effect: "It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad." Yes, Rowling! That's it exactly!!

The entry also features another of my favorite characteristics of the Dementors; namely, the way in which you oppose them. Perhaps you remember Harry summoning all of his budding magical power to create a patronus charm--essentially a protective spell engendered by a fundamentally powerful, good memory? The beauty of it all is that Harry's patronus is so very effective that it not only protects him and Sirius Black--it also chases away the Dementors. Perhaps this needs to be my model; the only way to resist being sucked dry and deadened is to continue to focus and project good things.

Right. So all I really need is a really powerful good memory, a magical bloodline, and several years' training at Hogwarts.

And now you all know how truly geeky I am.


Blogger Kate said...

You don't need any of that to keep your attention from being trained by your colleague Dementors. The good memory stuff is spot on (and please forgive the cheese, because I mean it sincerely): consistent appreciation of the beauty around you (outside if you can't find it in the department), appreciation of your human relationships, appreciation of the good person you are and life you lead... that really can keep you above that kind of shit.

I consistently try and keep my attention off people that suck. Sometimes I put it on solutions to their suckitude. Sometimes I put it on providing a model for younger students for the RIGHT kind of non-Dementor academic.

And then there are the days where I eat nothing but chocolate and ice cream.

Saturday, September 16, 2006 2:48:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Thanks for the ALL of the good suggestions here, Kate. I'm repeating some of that like a mantra--I do think I've got to find something (and maybe several somethings) whose inherent goodness distracts me from the suckitude. Stay tuned for reports to that effect...

Can I add wine to your days of chocolate and ice cream?

Sunday, September 17, 2006 1:06:00 PM  

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