During finals week, one of my classes, Rhetoric and Cultural Studies, gave a faux conference in order for us newbies to get our feet wet in the conference experience. [This would have been nice before the experience in October. *sigh*]
Thankfully this time I didn’t have to deal with deflowering stories or bloody heels, because by god, I was worn out and the fact that I was wearing pants and that most my hair wasn’t standing straight up was enough for me.
With the caveat that I did not go to all the panels, I do think mine was the best. It wasn’t my presentation that made it so. Lands almighty, the best thing about my presentation was my title, “Molding the Real from the Intangible: Blogging as Limina.” Fancy, fancy. The actual paper? Less so.
The fully amazing and riveting part of my panel was the reading of an essay by my classmate Aaron Goodman titled, “Deconstruction, Truth, Meaning: Personal Praxis in the Postmodern Everyday.” Coming back to get his MA after years working as an engineer in the Real World, Aaron has been in several of my classes and I’m always grateful. Aaron manages to ask all the brilliant and thoughtful questions, usually stirring up the best conversations.
He was the last reader of the day and he read slowly and movingly. He spoke to the changes of life and his insecurity of academia. The refrain echoing in his paper was to the akin the idea of that the more you know, the more you realize that you just don’t know. A rather long excerpt, but completely worth it:
Walking on campus this morning I realized that twenty-five years ago, at the age of seventeen, I began my undergraduate program in this very place. I see today that there are piles of rubble being created by the wrecking machines whirring and roaring along where now only a portion of my old dormitory remains. Since the early 1960’s it had stood on this little hill as a monolith in its own right, but now no more. The piles are being sorted out as if to make some sense of it all; chunks of concrete here, twisted steel there, things defying categorization over there. I think to myself that I once worked and played, studied and slept, laughed and cried within the walls now crumbled before me. Within the rubble is a part of me, and within myself is a part of the rubble. I do not force the issue, I do not bother to ask if somehow this could make for an apt metaphor; you know, the idea of rubble, and time, and trying to organize it all into proper stacks and piles as if it might still be put to use. Nor do I bother to ask myself why a tear flows over my eyelid, and rests at the top of my cheek.
You learn things—and unlearn things—as time goes by. You learn that time passes all too quickly, and you learn that things are only temporary; our own failures and successes most of all. You learn that rubble unavoidably comes with life, and that rubble can become life. You learn that rubble is okay, that it is about give and take, about falling down and about being made new, about compassion and grace—about loving and being loved. You learn that the mystery of all these things is flooding through and making beautiful this very day, this very moment of the everyday. And you learn that this is enough.
The new dormitory across the way, with its earth tones glowing softly in the morning sun, looks far more attractive and fun than its predecessor. I smile with a solemn joy at the site of it, and for all its residents I make a wish that each may find all the most wonderful, most beautiful things in life; things that as yet they cannot possibly comprehend nor imagine. I wish for them rubble, and I wish for them rebirth: painful, joyous, inseparable. I said this essay is about a journey, and it is.
You could have heard a pin drop in the room during his reading. At the end, a wavering male voice expressed my sentiments (and I don’t think we were alone) with, “Man, Aaron, why did you have to go and make me cry?”
After getting multiple people asking to read his paper, I can only point you to his site, which has a lot of great work on it, and ask you to please read the full essay. You won’t be sorry. This, my friends, is what the work of a real grad student looks like.