December 8th, 2011

Hu design


I don't think that I'm well suited to academia as a career.

Either I'm thin-skinned, or I just have basic standards of fairness about which I am very stubborn, but outside of teaching (when it goes well) and research (when it goes well), I should probably admit that I hate my life and that I sometimes have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, even though I think I have already done all of the accepting of the unacceptable of which I'm intellectually and emotionally capable. I guess it's just not good enough: I guess I just haven't yet lowered my standards far enough.

I just don't get people's hypocritical behavior, and maybe I should be thankful that I still don't get it, because that may mean that I haven't yet stooped to such a low level. But, in the short term, that certainly doesn't help my feelings of distress.

I try to be moderate, I try to be transparent, and I try to be reasonable, and it seems as if it's never ever good enough. I guess it does no good to be moderate, transparent, and reasonable around people who are immoderate, who deal in hidden agendas, and who are fundamentally unreasonable. Perhaps such situations present "teachable moments" in terms of the principles of an organization like CoDA (Codependents Anonymous).

This actually reminds me that I once wrote a satirical adaptation of the 12 Steps for a fictitious organization called Academics Anonymous. Here they are:
  1. We admitted we were powerless over academia — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that an Administrative Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Central Admin as we understood Central Admin.
  4. Made a searching and fearless productivity assessment of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to Central Admin, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our lack of productivity.
  6. Were entirely ready to have Central Admin remove all these defects of academic productivity.
  7. Humbly asked Central Admin to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had ignored in our pursuit of academic productivity, and continued to ignore them all.
  9. Made passive-aggressive comments about such people wherever possible, especially when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were unproductive promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with Central Admin, as we understood Central Admin, praying only for knowledge of Central Admin’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to academics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
What really pissed me off this morning was an email that someone sent me last night. I'm secretary of a regional society in my field, and in that capacity I sent around a reminder of the deadline for the call for papers. Someone from outside of the region took it upon himself to take me to task for the Jan 2 deadline, and took it upon himself to copy in someone involved in the national organization. First of all, this deadline was not entirely my decision, and second of all, this person did not stop for a moment to inquire as to what the rationale for the deadline might be. If the deadline was so offensive to him, maybe he could have read the original announcement (which went out some time ago) and commented on it then.

This comes on the heels of someone making reference in a faculty meeting yesterday to a suggestion I had made at the previous faculty meeting, only to ceremonially shoot it down with my name attached to it. I was not trying to be hostile or controlling: I was just trying to offer support to something that another colleague was saying at that previous meeting, God fucking forbid. What people fail to realize is that I don't care one way or the other. These kinds of issues simply do not impact the functioning of my day-to-day life. But it's not OK for other people to use me for target practice because they've got a problem about something else in their lives. When they act up, their names go on the (steadily growing) List of Assholes, and their names do not get removed until I decide that they may be worthy of probation.

All things considered, I am learning to handle some of this shit a bit better. I simply forwarded the annoying email to the president of the organization, pointing out that I had not dignified it with a response, but if he thought that this was a legitimate issue, he could deal with it. I pointed out the practical reasons why I moved last year's proposal deadline earlier by 5 days this year--i.e., that the program committee had a terrible time scheduling a meeting last year, and because some of the people who had sent in proposals were becoming impatient because they had not heard from the program committee in what they perceived to be a timely manner--and I pointed out that, in the past, we had had a November or December deadline, which would be fine with me, but since I have been secretary the deadline has been in January. I did point out that an earlier deadline would require more advance planning that had been the case since I had been secretary. This particular president has been very slow in taking care of his end of things. If he interprets my comment as a criticism of his presidency, that's fine with me, because it is very frustating to me to have to be the public face of an organization that is not being run efficiently. But people being what they are, they will likely remember me as the horrible ogre who denied people their winter break by having a Jan 2 proposal deadline. This kind of bullshit is why I didn't want to be secretary of this organization to begin with, and why I explicitly told the current president (formerly the chair of the nominations committee during the year I was elected) that I only agreed to be on the ballot because I was pressured two years in a row to be on it. Well, obviously, never again. My logic--which, by definition is to be disregarded and shat upon--was that anybody who's interested in sending a proposal to the regional societies will probably already have written their proposal and will have sent it to other societies by their September through December deadlines, and all they have to do by Jan 2 is run to the fucking post office and mail another copy to us. But again, I guess that kind of logic is for people who plan ahead and who aren't fucking douchebags.

Well, enough of this. I'm not sure whether venting about this is helping or not. Time will tell.

Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,



Hu design


OK, so I vented earlier today. The president of the regional society agrees with me that we should keep the originally stated deadline for proposals, and that people who have their act together this season should probably have something ready to submit by now.

On the way to campus, I decided to listen to an mp3 disc I made that contains the standard chants that form part of the daily devotions at Amma's ashram, as well as some Devi, Durga, and Kali chants I would like to incorporate into my personal spiritual practice if I could ever find the time to do so. At least having these things available in the car helps to acquaint me with them gradually until I can find more time to sit at my shrine and read them.

I decided to stop at Starbucks before beginning my meetings with students. While I was there I ran into my grad assistants and ended up giving one of them a ride back to campus. She is Catholic, and we have had some preliminary conversations about interreligious stuff. I explained a little bit to her about the chants I had on in the car, about Amma, and about Sufism. When I got back to my office building, I noticed that I was in a rather devotional space. It felt nice to revisit that space, after having been away from that kind of experience for a while.

When I got to my office, I started looking for the Darshan film about Amma online, to send to my student. I didn't find it (except for the trailer), but I found a nice clip from a BBC documentary about Indian gurus. The young man in the video had a friend and an acquaintance who helped guide him through his first darshan with Amma. Unlike the rather jarring US TV news coverage of Amma, this one allowed more of the atmosphere and mystery of the experience to come through. In looking at this and at other clips, I found myself in a deep place--as if I were in Amma's presence--and even was in tears at one point. I have not felt like that, even while in Amma's physical presence, probably since the summer before my mother died (i.e., summer of 2007). Yes, I went to Amma's programs in 2008, 2009, and 2010, but I just wasn't as open to as full an experience as I had today.

I ran into a student afterward who invited me to hear him perform during today's convocation, so I opened up some time to do that, even though I hadn't planned on it. Then I had to deal with another student who stopped by unexpectedly with an advisement question. There were issues with students who missed their final exams in the courses taught by my TAs. I dealt with all of this with my heart open, as if I had just had darshan, and it felt a little bizarre. I'm now starting to cook dinner, will try to finish grading papers, and will then turn around to go to a concert this evening, and then get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to teach my classes. Tomorrow night there is an opera that I should go to, and Saturday I need to be on campus for the first day of auditions. Final exams and assorted meetings are next week. Eventually I hope to have time to start listening to the recordings I made back in September, so I can suggest edits to the producer.

In any event, it's good to know that I can find my way back into a devotional space via reminders of what it can be like to be in Amma's presence. It occurs to me that I may simply have processing too much pain for the last few years, and therefore may not have been able to find myself back to as receptive a place as I had been previously. There is a sense of stepping back into memories of some painful events and beginning to shed some of the self-blame that may have been inhibiting me from digesting those experiences more fully.

I also had a hallway chat with a colleague whom I often resent for being unavailable and/or patronizing. That went pretty well. All around, it was probably a good idea to spend the time at convocation and to do the other things that I did today, even though it means further deferring scholarly and musical activities that I need to attend to at some point.

Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,