Cartoon logic: come on now.
My 12-year old self: this sort of thing would never happen in anime.
Every poet, consciously or unconsciously, holds the following absolute presuppositions, as the dogmas of his art:
(1) A historical world exists, a world of unique events and unique persons, related by analogy, not identity. The number of events and analogical relations is potentially infinite. The existence of such a world is a good, and every addition to the number of events, persons and relations is an additional good.
(2) The historical world is a fallen world, i.e. though it is good that it exists, the way in which it exists is evil, being full of unfreedom and disorder.
(3) The historical world is a redeemable world. The unfreedom and disorder of the past can be reconciled in the future.
It follows from the first presupposition that the poet’s activity in creating a poem is analogous to God’s activity in creating man after his own image. It is not an imitation, for were it so, the poet would be able to create like God ex nihilo; instead, he requires pre-existing occasions of feeling and a pre-existing language out of which to create. It is analogous in that the poet creates ￼not necessarily according to a law of nature but voluntarily according to provocation."
W. H. Auden, from The Dyer’s Hand (via ayjay)
Why don’t I remember this part of The Dyer’s Hand — owing to its theological presumptions regarding the metaphysics of art? I can’t remember exactly when Auden converted to Rome. Wait, he never officially left [High Church] Anglicanism, but his theology became more Roman?
Vue de l’exposition de Bernard Aubertin, programme des interventions sur le bâtiment, dans le cadre de la saison “Imaginez l’Imaginaire”, 28.09.12 - 30.09.13, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Bernard Aubertin, Tableau feu, 2012, performance du 27.09.12, © ADAGP, Paris 2012. Photo : Didier Plowy. (via Bernard Aubertin | Palais de Tokyo, centre d’art contemporain)
Burning one’s manuscripts can be rather less dramatic. And deleting them from a hard disk is hardly any fuss at all.
Towards the beginning of my relationship with WG, I overheard an incredibly pathetic ‘phone call at a railway station. A middle-aged man was speaking to his significant other in a tone both pleading and plaintive, and it was clearly about some difficulty of employment. The man had to justify his status, his value, and in our society that’s awfully difficult to do when you haven’t got gainful employment. I found the scene particularly affecting because I was fairly certain in a few years I would be that middle-aged man.
And so it proved. Eventually WG and I broke up, and in no small part it was owing to my inability to find proper employment (especially employment in the Boston area, where she lived and was doing her PhD). Now, we weren’t making significant money in the Noughties: she was a graduate student, and I generally worked part-time at slightly above minimum wage. But neither of us was likely to stay poor forever: we had a certain amount of human capital (even if it was mostly not the remunerative sort), and we both had financially well-off parents. Which is to say that we could rely on injections of support when absolutely necessary (the safety net of the bourgeoisie), and there was a possibility of a bit of property and other wealth being passed along.
I offered on several occasions to move to Boston without prospect of employment. Or to get a job ‘managing a McDonalds’ (before 2008, bottom-level service was often desperate for labour). WG declined these offers: she was honest enough to predict she would not be able to live with someone who was unemployed, or partially employed, or inappropriately employed. (Let me add here that, in the superficial things, she was far less grand or pretentious in her tastes than I.)
If some employer in Boston had offered me an IT position in 2007, how different would my life be now? Would I be married? Would I have children? If I had taken my bachelor’s degree at H, I am not at all certain my life would have been so different, but if I had got ‘a real job’, at age 20, or 26, or 34 — that would be the sort of event on which your life’s course turns.
(It is so easy to plot an alternative timeline, one in which I had a job in 2007 and did not lose it in 2008. Our parents would have bought a flat in Cambridge or the South End, or a house in Newton or Brookline, during the dip in the property market. Together we would now probably earn slightly over $100,000, managing all right as a top quintile household, even if our kids would never have the luxuries of our neighbours. I should like to think it would have made both of us happy.)
I have a fulltime job now, with benefits and business cards, and because of my family I have invesments and savings. But I continue to identify with freeters, NEETs, slackers, et al. Spending your 20s with almost nil accomplishments will mark your psyche for ever, as surely as the gaps and temp jobs on your CV. I am at least a decade behind my peers, and for some things there is very little time to catch up.
(Source: The Atlantic)
Last week, one of my college friends, who now manages vast sums at a hedge fund, visited me. He’s the most rational person I know, so I asked him how he would go about deciding whether to go to grad school in a discipline like English or comparative literature. He dealt immediately with the sample bias problem by turning toward statistics. His first step, he said, would be to ignore the stories of individual grad students, both good and bad. Their experiences are too variable and path-dependent, and their stories are too likely to assume an unwarranted weight in our minds. Instead, he said, he would focus on the “base rates”: that is, on the numbers that give you a broad statistical picture of outcomes from graduate school in the humanities. What percentage of graduate students end up with tenure? (About one in four.) How much more unhappy are graduate students than other people? (About fifty-four per cent of graduate students report feeling so depressed they have “a hard time functioning,” as opposed to ten per cent of the general population.) To make a rational decision, he told me, you have to see the big picture, because your experience is likely to be typical, rather than exceptional. “If you take a broader view of the profession,” he told me, “it seems like a terrible idea to go to graduate school.”
Perhaps that’s the rational conclusion, but, if so, it’s beset on all sides by confounding little puzzles; they act like streams that divert and weaken the river of rational thought. Graduate school, for example, is a one-time-only offer. Very few people start doctoral programs later in life. If you pass it up, you pass it up forever. Given that, isn’t walking away actually the rash decision? (This kind of thinking is a subspecies of the habit of mind psychologists call loss aversion: once you have something, it’s very hard to give it up; if you get into grad school, it’s very hard not to go.) And then there’s the fact that graduate school, no matter how bad an idea it might be in the long term, is almost always fulfilling and worthwhile in the short term. As our conversation continued, my friend was struck by this. “How many people get paid to read what they want to read,” he asked, “and study what they want to study?” He paused. ”If I got into a really good program, I would probably go.”"
Important sentence here: “Very few people start doctoral programs later in life”. Why not!
I suspect, like elite undergraduate colleges, very few top graduate programmes admit large numbers of older students. I hope this is changing. I wonder if it already is.
That said, an elite programme would like to give rise to groundbreaking research. That sort of creativity is associated with the relatively young.
I feel wary about the census-tract incomes assigned to the Subway stops [the neighbourhood round, say, Penn Station isn’t exactly posh], but just for the heck of it, the stops in [or close to] the neighbourhoods I favour are mostly on the blue or red lines and generally not at the top range [$200,000] but closer to ‘middle-income’ Manhattan [$100,000]. I expect some of it is to do with the number of young people who aren’t yet earning six figures.