My country is in ruins. So I’m a fish in a poisoned fish bowl. I’m mostly just heartsick about this. There should have been hope. This should have been a great country. But we are despised all over the world now. I was hoping to build a country and add to its literature. That’s why I served in World War II, and that’s why I wrote books.
– Kurt Vonnegut, The Last Interview: And Other Conversations
Along with Stanislaw Lem, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard the fourth Musketeer in my pantheon of authors is Kurt Vonnegut who awakened me from my own long sleep in ideological Slumberville. My gang of four troubadours taught me an alternate mode of existence, they challenged me every step of the way to question everything, to trust nothing more than the truth of my own life. If Diogenes were alive today he’d have called these men friends, he would’ve known them as the creatures they are: intelligent, fierce, and full of that unique ability to care about the creatureliness of all creatures on this good earth.
“I need to be alone. I need to ponder my shame and my despair in seclusion; I need the sunshine and the paving stones of the streets without companions, without conversation, face to face with myself, with only the music of my heart for company.”
― Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Fabio Cunctator of hyper-tiling posted an interesting and personal piece on ‘para-academic practices’. After reflecting on Pierre Hadot’s reconstruction of the history of ancient philosophy, he “enthusiastically agreed with his indictment of late medieval and, mainly, modern ‘academic’ philosophy” and the need to return to the ‘streets’ where the praxis of philosophy would rejoin the life of humanity. But in a bewildering moment of despair he confesses that “I decided to leave academic philosophy altogether, tired with the self-referential and pretentious debates I heard around me. That didn’t work out very well after all.” It’s in that last minimalist statement of his failure outside the academy that is the guiding thread of his moralist diatribe.
(Before I begin I want to be explicit: what I see in Fabio is a figure of the embattled academic in the University today. If it seems to be a satirical portrayal below, I am doing it not as a personal affront to Fabio himself, but that he seems to represent an aspect of the academic world that feels threatened by change and the historical process that is transforming our world day by day through the New medias.)