One Word: Plastics
Here's a pretty old legacy post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 20 years ago, in 2003, on the World Wide Web.
Minor updates for clarity.
So, it’s official. I’m a Bachelor.
Saturday I graduated from Auburn University, with a B.A. in Philosophy (with a Computer Science minor tacked on for good measure). After the past few years of wandering the halls of learning (or, at least, the halls of Haley Center), I finally have to figure out a new gig. Usually at this point, someone makes some remark or another about leaving the bubble of the academy and being thrown out into the terrible freedom of
the real world. You won’t hear it from me, though, for a couple of reasons.
First, I’ve been inhabiting the real world all along. I mean this in the truistic sense–Auburn University campus is no more illusory and no less material than the rest of the world–but I mean it in a deeper sense too. When people talk about school as not being part of the real world, they seem to have one of two things in mind (or, more likely, both). On the one hand, there is a particular picture of what academics do and how it relates to the world. The idea is that you’re dealing with the fabric of reality only when you’re in the midst of an active, practical life–that academics aren’t worldly wise enough to hack it in such a life–that the world of the academy doesn’t (and can’t) deal in experiential reality, because its whole purpose is to think rather than to do. On the other hand, there is a particular attitude towards school: it’s not part of the
real world because it bears no deep relationship to what you intend to do with your life. At best, it’s a preparatory means, valuable purely instrumentally–it’s something that you do in order to get into a socio-economic position where you can strike off and do whatever it is that constitutes your real life–a career, a family, or what have you. At worst, it’s merely a holding pen where you wait around until you’re ready to go off the parental dole and get started on the
real part of your life. The second picture is usually a direct result of the first. Going to school isn’t part of the real part of your life because the real part of your life consists of doing things, not of thinking about them.
I don’t want to deny that the second picture is an accurate empirical theory about how most people think of college in this day and age. But I think it is a pernicious picture if it is taken as a guide for how ought to spend your school years; those who act on a picture like that have basically been wasting their time and money for the past 4 years. It’s by no means necessary (however often it may be actual) for school to be cut off from the serious part of your life; such a dichotomy rests, I think, on a notion of the academic life that is completely false.
What I mean is this: in most other civilized times, we would hardly feel any need to defend the validity of the vita contemplativa, or the value of the way I’ve spent the past four years–learning and wrestling with important problems, for the sake of nothing except thought itself and knowledge of the truth. That is no small part of what I want to do with my life and to contribute to the world. The relationship between doing and thinking isn’t antagonism, or parasitism. Humans are rational animals; the very essence of how we live our lives is that we put thought into action, that thinking and doing are (for us) two sides of one coin. (Doing without thinking, in any literal and sustained sense, is a form of madness–indeed, a form of inhumanity.) So while I’m done being an undergraduate, my life for the past four years hasn’t been mere preparation for what is to follow. I’ve been doing what I want to do all along.
And I intend to keep on doing what I have been doing. But I’m out of school for the next year, and being a freelance academic doesn’t pay very well. So, I will be looking for a job, and working on graduate school applications for the academic year after the upcoming one. (If graduate school doesn’t work out, I might have to become a monk.)
In the meantime, however, I am on vacation. Right now I am reporting from Berea, Kentucky, where I’m visiting my old friend S. with the rest of my gang of friends from high school. S. pulls us into these fascinating conversations about sustainability and renewable energy and culture; we wander around the campus as if it were a swampy May night in Auburn again.
From there, it is a mere 12 hours by Greyhound bus to Detroit, where I will meet with my sweetheart. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this–to the theological inside jokes, to talking again about philosophy and movies and the Middle Ages; to just having quiet time together to spend with absolutely nothing else eating time away. We’re heading out on a trans-continental road trip out to California, where the plan is (I think) to sit on the beach, C and talk and read and do as close to absolutely nothing as possible for a few days–then to meander around a few sites in Monterey and San Fransisco. My hope is that I won’t be heading back home until early June.
In any case, the plan from there is: (1) summer work, (2) break, (3) move, and (4) fall work. (1) will consist in serving as a T.A. in Philosophy of Mind for Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (except I won’t actually be at JHU; I’ll be at a program site in Loudonville, New York). After that I am moving to Ypsilanti, MI, and looking around to find out in what (4) will consist. Wish me luck!
Posting will be sporadic, but I fear that you are more than used to that already, gentle reader. I’ll try and drop a line from time to time, though, and when I get back some changes and updates the the site are in the works.
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