We are asked to attend to our craft with delicacy and care, and that is as it should be. When asked to take contemplation out, I asked what that could be, I asked how I ought to remove pedagogical practices that are the heart and soul of political philosophy out. Some part of the event on 02.27.14 was a response to ignorance, misunderstanding, concern, the sensibilities and knowledge vary. The characterization of those who asked for the "take out," that seemed hasty, confused, the imperative so far removed from any sense of what contemplation could be. Here is a curious fact, no one asked. What may have looked strange seven years ago is well not so strange anymore, and I am not afraid of or deterred by difficulties and opposition. My CV is in the development of a modest contemplative program. We were holding silences many years before we named that "a pedagogy."
We ought to discuss contemplation, mindfulness, enter into a dialogue, and for good measure I should not be present and thus alleviate fears about disciplines issuing from contemplative sciences. At the "take out," I explained contemplation as one of many modes of mind, how it might be present in philosophy, art, and every discipline that attends to mind. The response was a causal link starting at my courses and ending in "mental disturbances."
My response was not, this is preposterous, I said as I do now contemplation isn't anything and everything. Philosophical introspection isn't anything and everything, could philosophy reach a student at the wrong time and in the wrong way? What of some Shakespeare, that isn't exactly happy and nice. Reading Hamlet can turn a reader inside out if there is care, thought, and some critical thinking involved. When I heard the "take out" I said, contemplative associations do have standards, among them three years of consistent practice. For many reasons the word meditation is used sparingly, even those who may know that there is an unique place for silent meditation. Of meditation there are many kinds. Look for some abstract "mindfulness" in the "East," good luck. You won't find it. And when you do it is likely to be "right mindfulness," or words to that effect. I almost said we should be cavalier about contemplation, then thought of our colleagues at UVA and they are an inspiration.
We should note too that there is no "institution," or "the study body," an "administration" outside the persons that compose it. An event "here" and "there" do not a university make. Maybe this sounds pedantic or excessively refined, I have said as much about some of what we do. The step I took wasn't a singular decision, in a moment; words hear matured over many years, and they don't establish an outcome, nor do they ask for anything but the one rule we abide by. I am here, outside the gates, and as I wrote, having taken all the mental steps out of the university. Do I want to go? No. Am I insisting on going? No. From where I sit and stand, I don't see why I should fail to say so, wonder what brings us to teh few events I crystalized, for they are poignant. That they are also not one or two concerns us. But we aren't simply adding up grievances and then deciding who has the most. To the contrary, I said let us not do that. My experience is of a work environment that sure does feel hostile, about matters that are the heart and soul of education in a free society. Understandably, the many breaches of trust, common decency, procedures and process prompts me to say that we do have long standing adjudicative body, and with regard to the EC I am as always. Bound to Robert E. Lee's one rule and will accept the single sanction. Whatever the jurisdiction are, we are all abound by this rule. The proliferation of an administrative class (and persons in it), the reams of policies unfurled in the last year, speak to the absence of the rule. Not each and every one, we shall generalize the circumstances as we do the rule.
In the course of events that lead to "take contemplation out" my sense is that we are at some considerable distance form what we purport to be, what many fine men and women are and should be, and to be sure aren't and have not been. I began with myself. I have heard "the case history," was myself part of "the case history," resigned from a committee in protest of our failure to call a spade a spade, I am among the grown ups who do know. Sometimes the grown ups don't do what they are supposed to do. No student has heard a faculty member say so publicly and openly that there are events on campus that feel as parts of my own body, and yes the testimonies I hear bleed. I am ashamed of one too many meetings reviewing statistics that show our "progress on assault issues," to decide whether forced detention and torture is suspension or temporary relocation for a year. And, yes, I am persuaded that contemplation brings us to a renewed perspective on who we are and what we do, and whatever may be the concerns about it, I have put it out in the open, should not have hear my work misrepresented and denigrated, university counsel watching my yoga class, end up as "other" in the latest Commerce School report for accreditation, worry that students are in proximity of perplexing, silly, yes, some of the events of the last year are silly, and also harmful. I explained the troubles with mold, fungi, and how to test for them in buildings. I explained why there isn't an "agent" to get out, even said, look I am not claiming a basement office is bad period. I am saying here are the ingredients to a perfect storm, for which there are first calls to my physician without my consent, and in failing to secure medical information by those means, a letter asking me to open the doors to all of my medical history and in perpetuity, and also to list how I am disabled and thus not able to "perform." Through that entire "process" I sat quietly in the Commons and without speaking a word about these peculiar circumstances.
Dev, I haven't responded to the spirit of your letter. I feel it, and we know what is in and among those who study and learn with us. We also know that news travels in odd ways, not by design. And we also of the insufficiency of words. From our time together, we know that instance of less than clear and precise rhetoric are (1) inevitable, such is the nature of speech, and (2) necessary to say enough and not have to say more. As to my sentiment, some might say he sounds animated. Yes, I care. As for anger, consider for how long I resisted saying anything, for how long I have done the procedure and only the procedure, spoken with those who are in charge, restrained friends and students from saying anything that would bring their alma mater into disrepute. I say what I say from a place, time, and circumstances,and I risk everything, you can imagine how this reads at home, I say so strongly, and my words do have a bite. No one does this without caring deeply for the education we are entrusted with. I see my thirteen year old daughter and fifteen year old son sitting in the class, right there you, Bassani, Mu, Peter, would I not want a teacher to do say I am concerned? Why are we doing as we do? What are we called to do? What example do we leave for young men and women when we cannot and do not express indignation, in a university, where earnest inquiry is what we do? I do not see faculty as servile men and women. What could possible justify tenure, job security for life? When words are about life and death, when they rise to protect the space without words, when there is a human destiny and a world we are obliged to care for, given, there, a river, sunset, and your face, son, man, the custodian of this astonishing place and community of souls.