Genius is the enemy of genius.
massive assumptions and over-stated opinions regarding
“school” and “learning” and other remarks, hoping to
encourage a shared frame-of- mind, environment-riendly
to the way I “do” education—and invited reply if not (better)
Two of you responded. So those of you that didn’t needn’t feel
Genius is the enemy of genius, said Emerson— a main voice
in our Transcendental Romantics course (19th.c Writers)--and
it's true. Emerson is as savvy as anyone about most things of
the mind & heart—his “Self Reliance” probably a self-help
piece not to be excelled even by the likes of Oprah Winfree
and Dr. Philadelphia.
“Oh, Sam, don't be stupid,” my goodwife, Ann told me:
“you can't expect them to pay your posts efficient attention—
especially in summertime. Would you have? if some professor
professed to you during a hot July, those summer nights on
Your colleagues don't—how can you expect students to?”
“No, I wouldn't have responded either. Of course not. I'd of
ignored it—ignore-ant. But there wasn't any e-mail back
then, no Twitter, no Face Book, no My Space, no texting,
no sexting, no I-phone and video: WE hadn't become world-
wide campfire, global village idiocy & every body's got a
talking stick for crying out loud.
We're all ONE, now—e pluribus ONE-em and can talk
with the hand; every body’s a laptop dancer..
But Genius is still the enemy of genius. Probably for very
good reason. A form of regulation. Governance. Only so
much genius allowed in play—otherwise it’s
Wonderland croquet. Alive, alive-ho.
“What if every body did that?” My goodwife Ann is
always telling me. “What if everybody raised his hand—
said here’s what I think about that, damnit.”
“Your job is to teach us to think!”:
A female—used to be called coed— told a batch of us
faculty at a task force urged by the then-new-president
to re-think the curriculum, which we did for weeks and
weeks and came up with a list of things WE CELEBRATE. .
I asked my classes next day:
“How many here don't know how to think
and want to learn? Raise your hand.”
No one did & I wasn't surprised. We all know how, true?
So what was that young lady talking about?
I've been thinking about what she said ever since then, late
80's -- big hair and wide shoulders, tattoo just making its
big-time debut: writing on skin, my linguistics students
told me, skinny legs and all: why its so popular. Intimate.
Here's what I got
(you can maybe improve my terms)
1. The heart of thinking is drawing distinctions.
2 The heart of academics is arguing them out
3. The heart of Liberal Art is relating them.
aka Academics/Work-it/Serving the muse.
I can't do any better.
Sure—all across the curriculum we think ABOUT different stuff
(content, subject/object matter, token topic and taxonomies,
processes and operations all of it on the final exam)
BUT: I'm claiming it's all drawing distinctions, arguing them out
and relating going on no matter the discipline or tradition or
4. And REPRESENTING , too. Sure. Got to be
able to represent, model, express it, map,
render your thoughts and noggin notions in order
to put it in play.-- or what's a college for?
That covers the basics. A reduction? Of course.
How could it be otherwise?.
It gets complicated from here up as we practice this triad
and start thinking about fiction and transcendentalism and
linguistics—but what we're DOING is drawing distinctions,
arguing them out, relating and maybe most significant of all—
yes, definitely most significant: representing.
BUT: STILL: Genius is the enemy of genius and someone's
distinctions will take-over, someone's arguments will be saluted,
some one's relays and relativities will seduce instead of educe;
and all of us will operate under the heavy hand of
Representations Already In Fashion,
know what I mean?
It's an Environmental Problem.
Not polar bears and steep slopes and the ever-thickening
bozone layers: it's the OTHER Environmentalism called
We swim in some kind of matrix like Joe Fish thinking
we can conceive of Wet and Dry but we're all soaked
and sopping and can't tell the differences. Not easily.
It would be Liberal Art to be able to. Tell the difference.
Draw the lines of distinction. Differentiate. Argue it out.
Need we argue? Of course. Or what's a college for?
Genius is the enemy of genius, damnit.
But it's a good thing, too. Yes? Everything is, true?
As Snoop and Pope says: “S'all good”.& “Every
thing that IS is good.”
That's my operating assumption. Why study,
xxxooo, Jane Allgood.