Friday, December 17, 2010

"The mind is an enchanting thing"

Marianne Moore writes in "The mind is an enchanting thing":

It has memory's ear
that can hear without
having to hear.

and she goes on to say:

it is memory's eye;
it's conscientious inconsistency.

I thought of this today and at the same time I think of how dark my mind is to me, how untrustworthy memory may be, how associations trigger memory and thought, seemingly out of nowhere.

Recently I watched Taxi Driver for the first time in about twenty years. The things that stuck in my mind from before were Albert Brooks arguing with the button people about "we are the people" and Martin Scorsese's sinister cameo riding in the back of DeNiro's cab talking about how his wife was having an affair and how he was going to kill her. However, I'd forgotten about how many appearances Jodi Foster made in the movie, how many times DeNiro had seen her, how she'd almost gotten into his cab, how he tried to talk her out of what she was doing while he was paying for her time, how they met for breakfast soon after. And I had totally forgotten his relationship with Crystal Sheppard, taking her to the porno film and confronting her at her office. A disturbing movie.

And not that any of this matters, but if I had forgotten so much in twenty years, then what about other memories that I take for granted, assume that I remember correctly? Maybe they are distorted, corrupted by fantasy and association? I have no idea. Admittedly there's a big difference between a movie that I saw once and didn't think about and something or things that I lived through, was supposedly there for and during. ( Not only with movies do I see how much I've forgotten, but rereading text after some time realizing it's different from how I remembered it.)

I used to think I had a sharp memory (perhaps because so little had happened in my life,) but lately I have forgotten whole stretches of time, only vaguely remembering having been somewhere.

It is very easy for me to deceive myself with my thinking, for example focusing exclusively on the positive and ignoring certain truths about myself: promises broken or unfulfilled, where I've indulged myself too much and grabbed for more of anything than I need (food, attention, rest,) applauding myself just because I wrote a thank you note or let someone into traffic or cross in front of my car.

I must accept the past, what I know of it, and that what I "know" may be wrong.

And the mind always wants something to do, as this short talk of Jon Bernie reminds me. (Thanks, Liz!)

So the mind is extraordinary and enchanting and it is constantly moving and I need not put too much faith in my own (perhaps it is not even mine.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Riding south with Cassie to visit her family on Tuesday and thinking of the houses and towns we passed, incomprehensible numbers of lives and activities. Long, stalled lines of cars on the opposite side, was there any way any of them could have bailed, taken an alternative route over land and off the highway, or was there nothing but to soldier on and say " it must be?"

How rarely I am in another's presence. Mostly the other is in my imagination, or at the other end of a telephone wire or computer screen. I think of others often but am rarely with them.

And the days pass, it is already Thursday, halfway through our stay, we have been well taken care of by my sister-in-law and her family. There is still sunlight and a few red Japansese maple leaves here. And news. And uncertainty.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The tube and I

I had to have an MRI today to find out what's causing this pain I've had for about a month, running from my neck all down my left arm. My doctor thinks it's a slipped disc. While it hasn't gotten any better, it hasn't gotten any worse. A month ago I went in for the scan and as soon as the techs put me in the machine, I panicked and fled. I didn't think I was claustrophobic, but I know now. As soon as I saw the glass come down and felt myself pushed into the tube, I felt as if buried alive and asked to be set free. It was another month before I could get an appointment. This time my doctor gave me a sedative which I took half-an-hour before, and I also wore a sleeping mask. When they pushed me into the magnet, I started to panic again and something stopped me, made me decide to stick it out and see what would happen, perhaps the vague understanding that the whole procedure would take about twenty minutes. Once I was inside, I began to relax and listen to my breath, and feel it flowing through me, and not caring about the loud racking noises, thankfully muted by earplugs. Clearly when I swallowed it affected the machine or the signal, I felt a different effect. After a while, I thought I might like a beer. It was a series of little hurdles, four to five minute intervals, and the kind technician checking on me after each one.

Then I wondered, in our age of nanotechnology, has there been any thinking/exploration to devise a less drastic form of this equipment, something that might capture images without traumatizing some of us, that could be used to target (hypothetically) the affected area?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Not thinking

What I think of as thinking is probably not thinking. It is the automatic traffic of associations through my brain rather than conscious, deliberate thought. I am absorbed in a conversation with someone about Billy Collins's poem Lines Lost Among Trees, a conversation that has long since passed but I have more things I want to say, and I drive past the intersection where I wanted to turn. My mind is on automatic, or on vacation, as in Mose Allison's song. Then I am reminded of a description of the Giants manager, John McGraw, in the Glory of Their Times: "Any mental error, any failure to think, and McGraw would be all over you. ... However, he'd never get on you for a mechanical mistake, a fielding error or failure to get a hit." And I cannot count the errors I have made because of not thinking, or because of being wrapped up in my head, automatic thoughts, associations, whatever label you want. There's also the story of Milo, in the Phantom Tollbooth, driving along and he stops paying attention, when the sign points left he goes right, and after "mile after mile ..." he ends up in the Doldrums. Tock, the alarm clock watchdog, makes Milo understand that he got there by not thinking and with conscious, deliberate thought he can and does get the car moving again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Te taire"

From Voltaire, Candide,

In the neighborhood lived a famous dervish who passed for the best philosopher in Turkey; they went to consult him: Pangloss, who was their spokesman, addressed him thus:
"Master, we come to entreat you to tell us why so strange an animal as man has been formed?"
"Why do you trouble your head about it?" said the dervish; "is it any business of yours?"
"But, Reverend Father," said Candide, "there is a horrible deal of evil on the earth."
"What signifies it," said the dervish, "whether there is evil or good? When His Highness sends a ship to Egypt does he trouble his head whether the rats in the vessel are at their ease or not?"
"What must then be done?" said Pangloss.
"Be silent," answered the dervish.

(I believe in the original the dervish says "te taire," which could be translated as "shut up!")

Then they go on to meet a gardener, who says he doesn't mind what happens in the kingdom but cultivates his garden the best he can. And maybe that is the best I can do. I am not in charge of what I am not in charge, and usually I do not know what's best.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tragic sense of life

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day
and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusky death
Out, out, brief candle-
life's but a walking shadow,
a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing.

Shakespeare, MacBeth

I don't know where I was sitting or what I was thinking when MacBeth's speech came to me. It happens in the drama after he is alerted that Lady MacBeth is dead, and then he says something like "that's all we need now." It's a powerful, tragic speech, which combines the monotony of life in the first lines (petty pace from day to day,) a cumulative effect ("all our yesterdays," fatalism ("to dusky death" "heard no more",) fleeting quality of life ("walking shadow" "hour" "no more",) senselessness ("tale told by an idiot" "signifying nothing") and violence ("sound and fury"), the latter of which the play is especially about. It's ironic also that the player metaphor is used within the play, which is not unusual with the Bard.

Compare with Ecclesiastes:
"all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? ...
The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all. ... Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me."

and also:
"And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."

However, Ecclesiastes says eat and drink up and be merry, for life is short. No such small comfort for MacBeth.

I don't know.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Trust in abundance"

Gretchen, in her wonderful Happiness Project, in the section "Spend Out," talks of how she learns to "trust in abundance," not to be stingy with things, with time, with love, with giving herself. (See a related post on her blog.) She gives examples, such as saving nice stationery to the point of never using it, and then finally using it to send photos of her kids to their grandparents. "What better occasion," she writes. "Spend out," she says " is not to be a scorekeeper, not to stint on love and generosity." It is also trusting "in abundance," that when we meaningfully spend or use something or give our time or money, more will be given to us. Rena gives a similar description of abundance in her latest newsletter: "Nature is abundant. There are endless stars in the sky and endless grains of sand on a beach. The universe around us is naturally abundant and so are the possibilities for manifesting what we want. According to nature's principles, it is more natural to receive what we want, then it is not to. We need to stop our thoughts from repelling what the natural flow of the universe is trying to bring to us." Maybe it's also like Matthew 14:29, the one who uses the talents gets back more, but the one hoards loses even that which he has. Also, "my cup runneth over," says the psalmist.

Which reminds me of two stories, one from a friend and one from an acquaintance. I sat with a friend in his garden yesterday and he told me how he and his wife went to Vegas and went to the casino just before they were getting on the plane, having checked out of their hotel. My friend likes to play Keno, and went to a machine that he had frequented. He won $10,000. The management was going to give him cash, which he didn't want since they were about to get on the plane. They told him that they would give him one check, and not pay him if he won anymore, so he took it and they went to the airport. His wife was full of ideas about how they should spend the money, but my friend said he had always wanted to take the family to Disney World, which in fact they did. I admired that he didn't hoard it, save it for a day that might never come, but just pursued his wish, whatever it was.

The other story a man told, saying he's always liked cars. A friend was driving him to his volunteer job at a museum, because he couldn't drive himself, having recently had open heart surgery. The drive had a Porsche, and my acquaintance was envious. "You should get one," his friend told him. My acquaintance said how he couldn't afford one, and was told that he could find one used. So he looked online and found one within his price range, wearying himself with considerations on whether he should spend the money this way, or how it would look to other people. But he said he finally decided that his friend's words to him might be God's way of telling him to be kind to himself, and so he bought the car and he's very happy with it.

I tell these things not because I have examples of my own, being fearful and stingy and like the servant who would hide the money (I did hide the money and not invest it, and then I had to lose it, paying some bills.) And yet, opportunities have come my way again and again, and I may not always get what I want, but I get what I need.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"That's right" (Jose) (from my life)

I knew a man named Jose, probably fifteen or twenty years older than me, married with kids, who was the asst mgr at the Waldenbooks I worked at when I took a year off from college to waste time. This was in 1986. I met him the first day I nervously worked there, discerned he had a sense of humor as he bantered with Jack, the evening guy and young man in a hurry. I described my first day to my parents and mentioned Jose. "Does he say 'no way'" my Dad asked. "No, but he says that's right," I replied, and "that's right" was (may still be) Jose's trademark, wehat he'd say in agreement, with humor, with laughter, sometimes stressing the vowels "Thaaat's riiiight!"

I learned from Jose to make the best of the situation, or I learned to say it, not necessarily to do it. Waldenbooks of course pushed their bestsellers, the Danielle Steels, Jackie Collins, Robert Schullers. (More on that later, maybe.) Jose loved to make "dumps" (book displays), and he would go to highbrow bookstores such as Wordsworth, Harvard Book Store, Penguin Books (all around Harvard Square in Cambridge, ) see what titles they displayed them, order them for our store in Lexington, MA and put them up front. They sold, he said.

Jose took an interest in me early on, when he saw me with a copy of Ibsen's plays. "did you read the Enemy of the People.," he asked me. I hadn't but later we talked about that, along with Ghosts and A Doll's House. Jose was very much in tune with the times and current events. "Did you watch Nightline last night?" he would inquire. I never did, but he would tell me about it. "It was very interesting," he would say, and that would lead to a description of something that was in fact very interesting, like Desmond Tutu not being given the last word against his apartheid opponent. He was attuned to popular culture and its absurdities, in fact I did not get a lot of his references. We discussed the Philipine uprising in detail (on one of the Waldenbooks displays he wrote next to a woman enjoying an island vacation "Imelda and her shoes",) and such events as Marcos trying to claim presidency in exile, or Tolentino trying to claim right of succession (I said that he had gone to the Alexander Haig school of diplomacy; "I'm in charge here!")

He would tease me about my left-wing politics. Once I came in and apologized for being late. "It's OK," he said darkly. "[then CIA director] Casey called to say you'd be on your way." Another time he looked at me in disgust and said "You - You're to the left of everything."

Jose talked about his time in Sweden as a student and how the prime minister, Olof Palme, came and talked to the students and asked essentially, "Just what is your beef with with the government." (Contrast that with Rocky giving the kids the finger at Attica. ;) ) Jose's thinking was that if you treated people with consideration and respect they would do well. I mostly did, but I clowned around with Jose and others, showed up late, and defaced discount labels, writing "if we [Waldenbooks] have it, you have to buy it." I was a know-nothing 21-year-old who thought he knew everything, and at the same time I knew I was learning from Jose.

Jose lent me two books on St Francis and liberation theology. I didn't read them until many years later, and then I went back to the bookstore and said you may not remember me, but here are your books, they were great. "I knew they were in a good place," he said to me, and we talked happily about finally having a Democrat in the White House (Clinton).

The last time I saw Jose was in the HMV record store in Harvard Square which closed sometime around the millennium. I don't know if he was able to do much there and they probably decreased his inventory. But he is a positive person with a great sense of humor and doesn't take himself too seriously (a lesson I could've learned from him then and maybe saved myself a lot of grief, oh well.)

Are you out there, Jose?

I salute you.


Waltham, MA

I want to be da mayor.

It's my town, y'all just live in it.

Walking past the Waltham Public Library, they had some Burma shave type signs announcing their utility. There was a beautiful girl sitting on the steps with her laptop, even though the library was closed, enjoying the 802.11.

Walking along Moody St, crisp blocks, chattering from restaurants, bars with their doors open (I didn't go in), calm, windless night, lonely girls smoking cigarettes, groups of young people with their takeaway, immigrants getting off work, greengrocers still open displaying rich papaya and discounted oranges.

Then across the Charles River, not quite at its height of several days ago. I thought I'd crossed the river for good nine years ago, but I was wrong.

Beautiful old brick and stone architecture. Harry's Shoes for rent even with its name emblazoned in the stone (maybe it was a great store and it's sad or maybe they were crooks; I don't know.)

Somehow my feet got me home (maybe I should write an Ode to My Legs ala Neruda).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eugen Kullmann (1915-2002) (pt.2)

(Part One)

Part Two

In that first meeting of ours (9/7/86?), Kullmann impressed upon me several things about religion. "God is the silent answer to the last question," he stated, leaving me to wonder what the last question might be. He listed for me his five criteria for religion, which included attitudes towards slavery, women, the poor, animals and man's place in the cosmos. He pointed to Jonah as an example of the concern for animals "And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” "And so much cattle," he repeated to me with a soft smile. Then he pointed to another verse:

"Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain (Deuteronomy 5:24) and how the early Christians failed this criterion: "For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned?" Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest." (1 Corinthians 9:9-10) In this case, the early Christians failed to meet the criterion.

Kullmann recommended to me Cassirer, the second volume of Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, which is devoted to myth and religion and other sources which I did not read (I did make mutliple attempts to read Cassirer's Essay on Man, learning that we are not only thinking animals but symbolic animals in Cassirer's view, but maybe subsequent science has determined that other animals engage in symbols, I don't know.) "Everything with religion, nothing out of religion" he quoted from Schleirmacher. Similarly, he mentioned one of Job's friends saying: "If you are righteous, what do you give to him? Or what does he receive from your hand?" "We do the right thing not because religion tells us," he stressed to me; "we do it because it is right." He did not like the translation I was using (the New Oxford Bible, Revised Standard Version) and advised me to look at other translations, giving me one of his own of a famous passage: "I know that my ransomer lives, and that he stands upon the earth, and if my flesh should be torn from my bones I shall still take my refuge in God." (Job 19: 24-25) (Later he quoted Terence "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.") And then he stopped and said "Now, we have some ice cream," and then "Can you eat a banana," he asked eagerly. "Where are you now in your Latin," I was quizzed and then he sent me home in the end of the warm sunny afternoon thinking I would read Job in full when actually we were due to start the Pentateuch.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Temps perdu

Kullmann: You young people with your Rock and Roll and your rolling rock. Trying to kill time, but time is going to kill you.

Kullmann: " A minute wasted is lost for all eternity" Prior to his lecture on Maimonides, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, April 1985.

c.f. Baudelaire, L'Horloge

"Driving around, I will waste more time." : Robert Bly

"How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you different." Kurt Vonnegut

Time takes its crazy toll
. Sonic Youth, the Diamond Sea


Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time - (1941)


hope deferred

"Hope deferred maketh the something sick -- who said that?" Waiting for Godot

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13: 12

"How do you give hope to people who have no hope?" Eugen Kullmann

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11: 1

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

T.S. Eliot, the Hollow Men

What happens to a dream deferred?
- Langston Hughes

"melancholy people have two reasons for being so: the don't know or they hope. Don Juan knows and does not hope." Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

"hope not being hope / until all ground for hope has / vanished" - Marianne Moore, "The Hero"

Ya gotta give 'em hope - Harvey Milk

Friday, February 26, 2010

only connect

The phrase Only connect was made famous by Forster in Howard's End (not that I've actually read it, but see What the Bee Knows by P. L. Travers for a wonderful discussion of it. Forster's sense of it, evidently, was cosmic, that we connect not only to each other but also our history as a species, our myths, across time and generations. My main interest in using social networks is like what
Kippe and Kopper said, “Recognize that what sustains most information technologies is people’s desire to connect with one another.”

Twitter has become my main source of new information, with Bloglines and email not far behind. I joined Twitter just to lurk and soon found hundreds of other users with similar interests, both professional and personal. One can manage the Twitter stream with Twitter lists (links to Twitter users sharing common information and support.)

What is a social network? Wikipedia discusses this with emphasis on physical and biological relationships such as family and kinship. Here, I consider the context of our online research environment and cyberinfrastructure such that, Social media are web tools that facilitate information exchange and social interactions.

At the same time as different companies with different clients contend for hegemony, the ones I use (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Bloglines, Blogger, Diigo) all serve different purpose and i interact with different groups on each for different purposes. Munger, noting that not one channel dominates and reflecting on a virtual science conference from 2009, remarks: "the intersection between the online and the real, in science and in all other spheres of life, is likely to get even murkier in the future."

Is our conversation limited to 140 characters? While announcing the 140 character science paper competition, Richard Grant looks sceptically at social media's (such as Twitter's) use for disseminating scientific results.

Adoption of SM tools by libraries has gained some interest; for example, A survey of library users concludes that some 50% use social networks, photo editing tools and online video provided by their local library. Meanwhile our young digital natives know what they want from their library.

This is a huge topic about how to facilitate interactions between people, using these tools, businesses talking with their customers, sharing info rather than hoardnig it. Many are concerned about privacy and safety (and $.) Gordhamer suggests some good guidelines, such as brevity, not putting too much investment into getting an immediate response and using your counterpart's preferred communication channel. He emphasizes connecting with others for a shared, mutual interest. Tamsen also shares some tips for successful social media participation.

Further sources:

Richard Simon posted The Complete History (spanning some 30 yrs) of Social Networking on his blog.

Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody and Matthew Fraser's Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom are both good starting points on social media and consequences.

I don't mean to be a knol-it-all. ;) Garrett

Friday, February 12, 2010

All and everything 0

All and Everything 0/0

February 12, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

xo :)

"Eternity is in love with the productions of time." William Blake


The Global Knowledge Exchange Network relaunched this week. From the efforts of Mary Lee Kennedy and Gosia Stergios of Baker Library, Harvard Business School, in collaboration with colleagues from Copenhagen, this online community furthers the discussion of scholarly communication issues, disruptive technology and new paradigms in information. Knols serve as bodies of knowledge and jumping off points for conversation. Speakers and webcasts to follow. It is an openly accessible community. Congratulations to Mary Lee and Gosia!

E-Library Economics

Two forthcoming CLR studies on the cost of self space and electronic content delivery are considered.

(Source: Resourceshelf)

The Intrepid Cooker

(Source: Christopher Shea)


(Source: Christina Pikas)

Enabling collaboration and discovery between scientists across all disciplines.

The scientist and the smartphone

How to store and organize cats

(Source: Amanda McNeil)

Women's Ice Hockey Takes Beanpot Title

Harvard women hand Northeastern their heads on hot platters.

Top 20 Most Romantic Movies

What I Am Reading

(Source: Melissa Keiser)

How to Install Google Analytics

(From ResourceShelf on patents)
patents searching: India: patents +Scirus
Wikipedia citations in patents up 59 percent #Wikipedia #patents #citations #resourceshelf

Use and Abuse of Power

On a new publishing model

(Source: sciencebase)

Harvard launches innovation contest for type 1 diabetes

What digital natives want from their library

Da future

(Source: Helen Curry)

Stop selling scarcity

(Source: Nahum Gershon)

Ramona Islam's Library Thing Bookshelf

(Source: Academic Library Learning Network)

At the Zoo
Zebras are reactionaries, Antelopes are missionaries

God's plan is best - MW




Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My teacher Eugen Kullmann (1915-2002)

Eugen Kullmann was well known at Kenyon by many students I was friendly with when I arrived at Kenyon College in the Fall of 1983. His archives from his teaching career are housed online at Middlebury. Prof. William McCulloh, in his remarks at Kullmann's memorial in 2003, and many (except the students and colleagues of his) probably felt the same way. (I wasn't at the symposium in 2003, a memorial. Haven't been back to Kenyon since I graduated and many faculty I studied with are there, including a lady Kullmann called "my successor", Miriam Dean-Otting, a highly gifted-teacher for whom I wrote two excellent papers and one lousy one in our Senior Seminar.

I heard stories before I met Prof. Kullmann from older students that he knew classical Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, taught courses on the Psalms, the Hebrew Bible and the Holocaust. Students ured me to go see him and study with him, but I was reluctant. I remember Bill Marchl, a friend who was a year ahead of me, showing off a wonderful paper about Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach, which the professor had regarded highly. I remember friends telling me of a conversation in class he had with a student, comparing the scriptures to a big department store, from which you could take some of what was useful and leave the rest. Another told me of Kullmann's wrath as rock music echoed throughout the campus in the spring. I heard of Prof K saying, "you young people, with your rock and roll and your rolling rock, trying to kill time. But sooner or later time is going to kill you."

In the spring of 1985 I met him, first when Bill Marchl introduced me to him at his talk on Maimonides Guide to the Perplexed. I knew nothing about it when I heard him speak, still don't, but I remember the doctor said before he began "A minute wasted is lost for all eternity." when my good friend Andrew Black took me to visit him at his house on the Kokosing River in Gambier, Ohio. I was on the fence about joining the department at that time. Kullman had retired in the spring of 1984, receiving an honorary degree. Andrew and I were buds and he told me much about the old gentleman, that he liked Big Bear supermarkets. When I met the man, he seemed old world, a European classical scholar. His house was mystical, with fading light, dust, cats, clocks and many books. Andrew knew him well. I made up that I was a religion major and couldn't communicate well with the Professor, but he liked that I knew about Bergman's The Seventh Seal. He was kind and asked me to come back, but in the Fall of 1985 I dropped out to waste time and work menial tasks and go to jazz shows in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After a year of nonsense, which wasn't entirely a waste because I did some reading and writing, I was welcomed back to Kenyon as a junior in the Fall of 1986. I learned from Andrew Stein, an old friend and soon to become Kullmann's favorite student that he and others were studying w/ the professor. The second Monday of school I made a call to Prof. Kullmann's house ( I still hadn't chosen a department or an advisor.) "What would you like to study, sir?" the old gentleman asked me. "The Old Testament, professor," I answered. I was then corrected (about my little bible reading.) He informed me that the Hebrew scriptures (Hebrew Bible: pentateuch, wisdom, propehetic writings, apocrypha) were grafted onto the gospels and Christian letters and revelation for what the West called the bible (but he meant the Hebrew bible.) (In the Antichrist, which Kullmann did not mention, Nietzsche railed against the merging of the two as a great literary offense against the spirit. Blake, too, (also not discussed) said in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell that now everyone worships the Jewish God -- I think he had the prophet Ezekiel say it.)

So I brought my Oxford bible, down the hill in Gambier and the professor met me halfway. "Doctor Gary," he called me and shook my hand. I started taking notes at his house right away and he discouraged me "Let what sticks stick, " he said. "knowledge is what you have after all the notebooks have been burned!" The other thing that stuck with me that day was what the professor said "God is the silent answer to the last question."

Prof. Kullmann quickly determined that he liked me and that I had no religious upbring, so "nothing to unlearn," he said. He was pleased that I was taking Latin and Historical Thought and the Gospels but not pleased about my other religion selection. He told me many things that early, sunny September afternoon, one that I remember about the Iliad, (7th book.) Ajax taunts the Trojan Glaukos and The Trojan replies "Very like leaves are the generations of men." He said that was meant for Toynbee, Spengler and Valery but I never read any of these. (But later that year I read Homer with McCulloh and it suddenly made sense.)

(To be continued. 2/11/10)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Update on job situation

Met with Lynne Schmelz at Harvard's Cabot Library today (undergraduate science library). Our meeting was cordial and our conversation was direct. She presented several options for me and I like them all. I will work there four days a week starting in February, and one day a week at Rowland. Especially intriguing was the possibility of developing current awareness services and employing social media such as Twitter for the library. I'm there, and planning on starting a new blog. Among the other assignments are support for courses (developing modules of resources), instructional support and reference desk work, while continuing to be the go-to library person for Rowland scientists. It's a relief to know what I will be doing after several weeks of uncertainty (we had to cancel our meeting twice before.) I was welcomed warmly by the Cabot staff (Ellie Clement showed me around and Reed Lowrie, with whom I will be sharing an office, said that he was sorry about my library's closing, but that he was glad I had a place to land.)

This is a good thing while I explore options and could be an opportunity to create a permanent situation for myself at Harvard. Maybe. It's good to have clarity. I let the Rowland folks know of these changes in a tersely-worded email which was cathartic to write. Change is change and I know today that there's often an upside which I would never have looked for in years past. Feeling free.

Some have said I wouldn't like working with undergraduates. The kids are alright, as far as I'm concerned. They are how they are, smarter than people like me, while I know more. They are at an exciting time in their lives and it is a digital generation which I'm told does not necessarily come to the library to seek help - perhaps they are craving community. I know I can be equal to every relation today.

Forward to the future, instead of past to the back (paraphrasing an ex-vp of the USA).