Monday, May 21, 2012

A Pause, In Our Campaign

I am just now returning from Ypsilanti, in which municipality I had been contracted, as a sword swallower and acrobat, for a show in front of a mighty and now thrice-assembled troop campaigning for the Future of Higher Education.

This went well.

But now, putting aside anything attached to the mere artistry of my performance, which is always intended merely to dazzle and divert, I felt inclined, shortly after the port engine of our plucky little Brazilian Microjet 8700  went bad (I may have the wrong model info here),  to think about this and that and the other thing by way of the everlasting values of a  liberal education. 

Cringe not, dear reader, but instead ask yourself. I mean, when you're ready: Whence, friends, the strength that carries us through the weirdly unmoored sensations that wooze through us during those unplanned landings—I mean, especially those—of our too-short careers, though ok, maybe not always through our sentences, if that's what I mean.

Never mind, but do not, on the other hand, miss the martinis available at the Columbus airport, near gate C50. Six and half bucks a pop, at which price several are economically quaffable prior to boarding flights, rescheduled or not.

And now,diagonally across from aisle seat 8C, behold a charming little purple-clad fellow. In pajamas, of course.

Why do parents bring their kids into airplanes in their pajamas? Do his parents really imagine that this costume, with, did I mention, its stripes of an arresting green, would somehow signal some suitability for sleep?

Really? In his little still-myelinating brain machine?

As it races on hell-wheels across that broad highway of unimagined temptations that is our, did I mention, too-short life?

Good luck with that.

An education, I think, for him, is happening during his seven or so months, and this is part of it anyway, and a higher one, at about 22,000 feet.

So fine, the current lesson involves a deep exploration of his father's aisle-side nostril, we can see this very clearly. 

He seems want something in there. Up here.

I would take a picture of this jolly scene, but the redundancy of such a digital capture! Does everything need to be done twice? Or more? Or twice that?

Well, that's a tough one, actually. Like, "how stupid is that?"

You know, and then you have to specify some metric, and defend it, provisionally, but with great elegance.

Or perhaps, better, try one of these: how many more doctoral theses on Edith Wharton do we need?

No, I am sorry, you're just joining us?

No, I'm sorry, they really are not easy at all. The notion that "it" is as stupid as Fraugtzeiener once said, as a joke, "it" was, does not operate under all conditions.

And while it has been widely accepted that we need some number more than 12,248 separate doctoral works on Edith Wharton, no one has ever had the balls to estimate an upper limit.

So who do you think you are?

Oh dear, little comma, as they say in the Bulgaria—they do, they call them commas—don't cry!

He is quite bored now with the inside of his father’s nose, thinks its all a dead end, worries about having wasted his time on a very stupid project, blames his advisor.

And really, on top of it all, think of what this all is costing us!

Ok, not so much, you sweet pataika, they'd have had to fly back anyway, I suppose, your mom and dad. For whatever reason. I mean, who flies from Columbus to New York just for the pleasue of it, Sunday evening?

And, you know, they might as well take you with them. And you still get to fly free.

So, a little diversion then, my fine comma. You know something? You have only ever been a comma in a few modern south Slavic languages, I think.

And probably only since the use of the Cyrillic typewriter.

You never were such, never were even a little bit of punctuation, cute as you are, in Old Church Slavonic, I can tell you that! 

You were probably a tuber of some sort, and not a nice fat potato either, that blimp of starch having not arrived until well after Saints Cyril and Methodius wandered through the Balkans, literatizing everybody for the greater glory of the almighty.  

Have I told you that Ypsilanti is named in honor a great hero of the Greek War of Independence? No, I didn't think so. But it's true. I know. I am a professor.

I wonder if they call you comma there? Have to check. 

Anyway, in pagan times, I suspect you were something a bit tuberish, even if not a modern potato. Like A Jerusalem artichoke, maybe. Peeled, of course. But I'm away from my notes.

And no purple pajamas. That I am quite sure of.

Ok, you're asleep. Fine, fine. Higher Ed isn't everything. Be asleep. The Knowledge knits itself together in such states.

And now, as a father, not yours, of course—I am generalizing, it's a perfectly respectable thing to do—it is, indeed, a fundamental requirement of scientific method!

But as a general type of father, let us just say a parent, that's fine, that’s fine, sleep and prepare yourself for more education. Tomorrow. 

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