Sidelines and Sessions

2009/05/23

Good morning.

Filed under: Uncategorized — spsukaton @ 10:22 am

It is half past two on a Saturday, three weeks left in school, four papers due within the next two weeks, and what am I doing? Blogging, of course.

I can’t believe that in three weeks, I will be 20 years old and halfway done with college. I’m still declared officially as pre-history (that is, finishing the prerequisites for history, not studying cavemen) and I just realized that whatever I came to UCLA to do needs to be done in two years.

I don’t know what that is, though the questions on the orientation survey offer an interesting guide.

Develop a meaningful philosophy of life?

I’m staying up when I should be going to church! If I can’t be rigorous about the faith that’s a primary part of my identity, what does that say about the rest of my life?

Gain valuable career experience?

I’m doing a little better here. An assistant editorship on the Daily Bruin’s opinion page puts me ahead of the game as writers go – but student editors in the journalism world are a dime a dozen, and plenty of them went to bigger-named schools or actually majored in journalism. I’m still in the pack, rather than ahead of it.

Develop intellectual interests?

Here’s something that works. It took me two years to get most of the wanderlust out of my system and settle down on what I should have done in the first place, but the years were well worth it. Ethnography, oral history, historiography…my mind live in a shack on the border of anthropology, history, and religion, and I plan to build a mansion where that shack is.

That makes sense. Studying history has affected my career goals and my personal philosophy as well. Remember when I used to be so confident about everything? I was smart, Sundaykeeping was shady, and all’s right with the world. The last two years have shifted the ground under me. Not in an earthquake sense…but I think I might have to get new shoes.

(Actually, I’ve had these gray NBs I’m wearing now since high school. Metaphor meeting reality for the win.)

Did you ever read “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” when you were in high school? It’s a poem by Emily Dickinson:
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—

I’m not a liar. I never want to be a liar. I feel hurt when you call me a liar. But…

I won’t go into any great assumptions about God or whatever, but as a historian and a journalist, “Or every man be blind” is pretty accurate. Historians write to a goal, conscious or not.  So do journalists, especially columnists. Facts can be reported, in chronological order – but once we impose narratives on them, we lose a certain accuracy to gain meaning. And ultimate truth about anything escapes us, laughing merrily as it skips off into the fog. I’m not a relativist – I just think the world is bigger than I am.

Stories are my intellectual interest, specifically real stories about real people, ideas, places, and times. I suppose that’s my philosophy of life – to find narratives, but remember their place and mine. I suppose that’s my career – to record stories, play with them, make judgments about them and write them and tell them to others.

And yet, old storytelling mediums are dying fast. The newspaper is, as magazines are trumpeting, bleeding to death like Caesar, stabbed from all directions by the market. Magazines forget that the web takes from them, too. And I don’t know how to work the web to talk for me – yet. Part of me wishes I was born in 1904. I’d be 30 during the New Deal’s Federal One – the Federal Writers’ Project and Historical Records Survey would be perfect for me. Maybe Obama will do that again.

Whatever. But for now, what do I do?

What any writer should: keep reading, writing, eating, sleeping, talking, listening, living.

I need to go recharge. Talk again soon.

I bet you this won’t make any sense at all when I wake up.

EDIT: Upon re-reading (and a glance at my bookshelf) I think I just want to be a 21st-century James Agee.

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