My earliest memories of colleges all seem to connect to buildings. I can vaguely recall visits to several Texas colleges at at about five or six years old. But more than the names or locations, I remember the aesthetic of atriums, classrooms, and performance halls. Most distinctly, I remember the UT football stadium I visited with my dad, and how the ramp under the stadium reminded me of a parking garage.
But why is this important? At some point, the word college stopped translating to football stadiums or fancy architecture that little Randy could run around and explore. College started to denote the people, and not just the place. And as I started to connect people with the ideas and opinions, I made the subconscious shift to associate ‘college’ the word with ideas. Put another way, college meant the thoughts expressed in a space, and neither the space itself nor the people in it. And I can’t help but wonder: is this the best picture of college? Is an academic merely the sum total of their positions? Is there another view of college besides thinking of it as a repository?
The idea for this new category (or rather, the revised version) is to make a space where I can examine a variety of mental puzzles and ideas, from the dusty corners of literature that I’m persistently enamored with, to curiosities about how words are used and what they really mean. To a degree, I’ve already tested this idea out in blog form (see the earlier posts about magic and literature). And while that was a notably successful period for this blog, I want to refine the concept a little.
I want this section to include more than just musings and ideas. As I implied earlier, I am uncomfortable with the understanding that an academic is merely what he or she thinks. To me, that feels a lot like describing a college campus by its buildings. Certainly, they are integral for the academic work, but unoccupied, the buildings are without intellectual value. People are what transform a campus into a college. We always have some reason for the logic trains we’ve adopted. My stories are what contextualize and color the lenses that I see through. And those stories have meaning because of what I believe about them.
As that last point implies, the section will likely find its way into more contemplative waters, but that isn’t to imply that some nonintellectual force will invade the space of scholastic rigor. Consider the phrase, “I heard/read it from X authority,” or “I have observed this phenomenon with X sense.” The empirical basis for a conclusion— the logic, inquiry, or scientific observation— is ultimately based on the trust in our means of gathering and processing information. As a person in the liberal arts, I would be lying to you if I pretended that what I believe doesn’t affect how I think. I hope you will join me on both fronts. I hope that we can explore stories, wrestle with ideas, and generally perform the life of an academics together.