More from the Archives

Fathoming the Archives again this morning, I ran across something I wrote in 1974, after my first year of teaching at Acadia, in a document called “How it looked, Spring 1974”. This was of course long before the WWW, html, even computer access (let alone ubiquity). Some of it presages my 1990 change of career:

So what I’m really getting at is that Information is one of our biggest problems. We have at the same time too much, such that we choke on information and get to be too blasé about what would have profoundly shocked us 10 years ago — and we have too little information because we keep being surprised by what the world serves up to us. The only way to improve that situation is to do something about it yourself — to start being aware of how much your own information structures are changing, and to start trying to achieve systematic understanding of the information that does come in. In a sense you have to do that, just for your own future protection. Or else you have to find a way to drop out completely.

The point is, we have to seek out and find meaningful alternatives to more-of-same. Short-run solutions aren’t solutions — they’re just palliatives to stave poff disaster, and disaster seems to be getting closer and closer.

Another from the Archives, from July 2002, just 3 years before I retired form W&L:

My version of postmodernism is to see the passing scene as chains of stories, the subtext of which (and often the explicit content of which) is about the networks of relationships that lie behind the observed Events. Juxtaposition.

The stories often leak into each other, sometimes because one is a hinge between them. The stories also link people, quite often people who have no idea that they’re linked. If I hear a story on NPR about going over Niagara Falls n a barrel, I’m linked to … the teller of the story, even though I didn’t retain his name … to the people in in the story, though they played their parts in the past, sometimes long ago, or (often enough) didn’t actually do what the story reports … to others who happened to hear the same radio program … and so on. The nature and strength of these connections may be pretty misty and faint, but my participation in them, even as a passive auditor, is of some significance to me, to what I know, to what I think about, to who I am.

I’m a collector and container of stories and linkages. Everybody is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *