Sunday, October 28, 2007

Considered "g/Gifted," but not g/Genius

In a recent "Special Issue" of the "Smithsonian," a Fall 2007 issue to be exact, the subject of distinction is raised. On the cover, "37 under 36: America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences." After reading several of the entries, I was puzzled as to how and why some may have made the list over others who did not make "the list."

Several years ago I took an I.Q. test and scored 140 points. Now, to place this score in context, Albert Einstein scored 165 points, or what is commonly now considered, albeit "systematically," a genius. What did my score consider me? I certainly, by these "measurements" could not be considered genius level.

Instead, I was weighed, measured and given the label, "gifted." As a 32 year old male--I thought, "Could I possibly make it in the 37 under 36" new edition-ever? Then I was reminded of last night's CSPAN episode featuring Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In my early pre-medical studies at Trinity College (TC) I corresponded briefly with Dr. Carson via snail mail. Here was a man from the inner city Detroit area, or "Edge City" district, now a famed physician, speaker, author and all-around well-liked individual.

By the way--he received the afore stated distinction at the age of 30, but he has never been considered a "genius" per se. Admittedly, I am sure that others have merited such a distinction of "genius" that have yet to receive it, and vice versa; i.e. there are those that have been labeled "genius" accordingly, but do not deserve its extended privileges.

The title of his first book, given to me by my father, was titled Gifted Hands. This small volume encouraged me then, during my arduous studies in Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry at TC, as it still does via my present and onerous, doctoral labors in the Medieval Studies program at Purdue University.

As I see it--the position of the "gifted" is one of necessity and value. At this past Purdue University Convocations our president, France A. Córdova emphatically stated that her present goal is singular, "Purdue University's sole focus is to attain distinction-period."

In the wake of several accreditations, we are reminded to be useful and valuable. I have felt on several occasions less than stellar, and I hope to be of present and future relevance, but in this hope my ultimate aim is to promote those who are at the "genius" level and to make them accessible. After all, I believe this will promote spaces of interaction and development of my "gifted[ness] as well as my relevance."

Finally, I am comforted in knowing that age and distinction is not as congruous as we think. For example, Moses was utilized in his old age as was Beethoven and Bach. My aging friends then--I think we are in good company--the former was declared a latent "genius" and the latter, a hard and "gifted" worker. After readng this--where will you be situated?


Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Grief of my Father and the end my Grand, parental loss

As I lay there in my bed this morning--I was brought out of my R.E.M. sleep back into this world of the "living." My phone, playing the role of an alarm clock, had the picture of my mother on the front cover, and miffed at the interuption I decided to continue sleeping.

Earlier in the week my mother had asked that I investigate on her behalf for a new Dell tower because her tower from e-Machines had decided to crash. Anyway, when I finally woke up I realized I had several missed calls and that three voice-mails later I was calling my parents. My grandmother had passed away.

This beautiful woman was to my father both his father and mother in one. You see, my father had lost his dad when he was only 11 years old and it was my grandmother, whom I always called Mina (pronounced My-Nah), who raised 9 children on her own. I have seen the place where my father grew up, and though a luscious play ground on the French colonized island of St. Lucia, it has since held to the epitome of what is poor.

At the saddened news I knew not what to tell my father about his loss, and knew less of my now defunct claim that at least one Grand parent was still alive and well. It was a great loss indeed! My father has a weakened heart, and my concerns were about his welfare. He was close to his mother.

The subject of death has been examined by me in the annals and dark corridors of literature. The Bible, the greatest literary text in any language known to humankind has extensive knowledge on the subject. Further, the subject of death and dying has been found by me in Beowulf and in the The Battle of Maldon. These literary examples contribute to my mistrust in death. What is more, the death of a literary character and the rebirthing of its author takes place in the greatest novel ever written, namely Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quijote; specifically, the second volume of the two-part text.

By experience then, I lost my mother's father about 4 years ago, my grandmother in half that time, and most recently my father's mother. Recall, I never knew or met my father's dad, but from what I can picture he apparently lives on in the genetic make up of my brother and the work ethic of my father.

Death is no respecter of persons, but it does situate the living in the context of finality, and though I do not mean for this blog post to exist in a morbid parameter--you must be aware of it! I would challenge all of you who have lost and still have, to consider your state with your own respective families and perhaps answer the phone when they call a little quicker, perhaps stay on the line just a little longer, perhaps listen a little more and even say, "I love you," or its equivalent.

Make it happen--do not wait for it to happen, because death does not wait in the shadows as I thought, but comes in the early sunrise morning over the horizon of the French mountains in St. Lucia, and sends its rays of warm sunlight on the uneven, galvanized roof and stone-hewn deck of my grandmother's home. She lives on in mere memory and in familiar iconography. her still.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Is there anything new under the sun?

My inquisitive brethren I pose this question to you in its fullest hammer-like swing and thunderous thump on the temple of your existence. Namely, in the form of a confession:

I am an interpreter and perhaps translator of my time regardless of past appeal; as a Medievalist and Philosopher (as if both are A and -A of each other)--I am responsible; my "thought-trains," as Arendt before me has posited, are informed, and my response is...against indifference and appeals toward relevance. I am twice removed; I am a French Black and Spanish, Carib-Indian. By compound then--I am human, and my elemental stew is legion.

How will you approach one who is equipped with so much différence; how will you be aware of your privileged tongue; what will you refrain from saying; the problem is yours and mine, and collectively it can be said to be ours, but whose is it first?

Presented another way--which holds preeminence, the chicken or the egg? That's easy--the chicken. Why? Becuase in its simplest form--the questions addresses: Which came first that which creates, or that which is created? Obviously, that which can continue to give birth--must precede that which has been birthed. Put another way--which came first: the written or the thought?

No two people thoroughly agree on the afore stated matter, but what is at stake here? Are these mere exercises of the mind? No. We must find the point of relevance and then enter through such gates into the promised corral of interpreted discourse. But we must look for it and approach humbly, albeit some are more equipped than others to enter, but still all who are born from a woman are liable, culpable and must respond.

As in the words of Ayn Rand, "The explanation rests" and so do I--for now.


The Dalai Lama @ Purdue University

I just came back from an interesting experience which concerned a meeting with "His Holiness," the 14th Dalai Lama at Purdue University's Elliot Hall of Music; the event was sponsored by Purdue University Convocations et al.

I though the "talk[s]" by the Lama were simple, memorable and equipped with his quirky laugh--a moment of basic reminder. It was not what I expected and though I differed on numerous points I applaud his resolve on two simple matters that have recently been guised as complex; first, compassion, love and of such a sentiment's appropriation disseminated throughout the land one human at a time; second, the Lama urged for more collaboration on matters of faith and/or religions via suspension of cultural biases through secularism.

When asked to address the current war in Iraq and our, rather this country's present executive branch's decision, he mentions a fondness for president Bush but a frown[ness] for an aggression that is fought on biased motives incongruous with the helping of our "enemy," whomever they may be. I wonder if at some point of intersection might the neighbor, those whom we come in contact with, might be construed or rather conflated to be that "enemy" of sorts?

I write this because we are involved in a world that desires for the melting pot of belief systems to work together in peaceful harmony. According to the Lama we are born with responsibility (Levinas anyone), but more so--we are urged to bring compassion to the masses of what Girard and Derrida before him call le différence. My inquiry is a simple one--if mimetic desire is in everyone and mimetic rivalry an inevitable construction of the self, selves, and the like--then how are we able to find peace exactly?

Who truly can deliver peace; i.e. define it and package it and then distribute it throughout the land and lands. How can this be possible when I am born to covet, and though the law educates me as to my condition--I am still culpable, no. No Dalai Lama nor peaceful resolve will work in a world where différence is privileged unless we harness what mimetic condition we do privilege.

Again, the afternoon proceedings with "His Holiness" was an interesting one, and one that fostered neurogenesis in the form of this blog.


Un experimento en poesía: Two exempla

This summer I had the honor of teaching English at Phillips Academy-Andover under the (MS)2 program for minority students. A truly exceptional program utilizing the full advantages of the American boarding school.

In fact, I contacted Professor Stephen Greenblatt, via e-mail, who was kind enough to keep a correspondence with me, and he recalled his teaching experiences at Andover with me as memorable. I also met some of the most wonderful educators there during the program. One in particular, who goes by the name Kyle and is an Instructor at Arizona State University (ASU), had asked that I consider putting on the blog some poetry.

My love affair for genre experimentation is legion, and though I cannot safely state that I love poetry, I offer two examples of my own thought on the matter. The examples stem from the The Dudley Review, Volume 11: Façades issue (2005) published by Harvard University. Respectively, they are simply labeled, "Two Sonnets" and are taken from an on-going collection of 100 sonnets, which I hope to further publish.

These poems express for me the concepts of my experimento en poesía, and I hope they offer that reading into one's life--wherein poetry can be considered what I call--the ars of sensation.

Sonnet IV:

If time were sovereign over me,
These words I pen would gladly prostrate;
Alas, only thought and memory, can make me free,
All ambition chanced to the Divine's magistrate.
Is time bowed to Him with whom we have to do?
The answer is foolish by clay's reply.
My hands can hold all of elemental stew,
But limited are they, covetous to deify;
Salvation has come to the humans first,
Then penultimate, thine aim O trumped angel,
Bestow care upon all below who thirst-
I think it shame and likened Pantagruel.
The ticking dial of a puls'd, weakened frame,
Still proves, in much, man's need to be tame.

A Sonnet of Gold in Tele-Lies of Silver:

Time us to see if the fruit of promise be pick-worthy,
Reach for it Muse, not delaying--I promise to ignore thee not;
O pluck it from my common heart and queen me Kingly,
For I remain ripened as the Divine in thee did begot;
To say I love you is not enough, though the season be,
Unkindly as its cousin hate, but more irreverent;
Call upon Herculean arms, Jove's bolts, or demigod--Panoply.
Mi amour will not wane, nor wax-wetted, liken'd to an Icarian
I am bold in this joy! I needn't shake-my-spear in soliloquy,
And yet resistance is rooted in the cellar of my fear;
'Tis no matter my Precious and fair Narcissine symmetry,
You and my love, though clouded in gold parts, are crystal,
lined clear.
And foolish mortals we be, if we be truly vexed,
As witches in the dark that are irreverently sexed.

Further contributions re: the genre of poetry and my poesía will follow, but for now content thy self with these two ramblings of reflective rancor and relevance, no.


Friday, October 19, 2007

On the subject of Exile

I am currently reading through Ovid's "Poems of Exile" alongside Hannah Arendt's essays that transpire her "thought-trains" in the early to mid 1930s. The position of exile is an intriguing one. It is at once the manifestation of and punishment toward external victimage. It at times involves a relocation of sorts--both in the mind and out from it.

I have come across the subject of a self exile or a contrived exile, and I wonder how viable a subject is this? Can one be sentenced to live elsewhere, or as in the words of Neil Gaman--"Neverwhere"?

When I was younger, say 13 or so--I remember that I hated to read, but I could sure quote any television commercial known to a young islander (yes, we had electricty in the islands). Then something happened, and it happened with frequency. I found myself leaving my routine life of television shows, microwavable bagel pizzas and fights with my brother as to who owned the rights to the television remote control (obviously it belonged to me).

Anyway--one day I decided to forego my routine and headed past the tv room, pass the den down the hallway and entered what would be a new space to promote new habits and the like. I began with comic books, gravitated toward Michael Crichton, John Grisham and Peter Benchley. Later, in a given summer I found myself reading fifteen novels from these combined authors. I was hooked!

I now looked forward to heading off toward my room forthe sole purpose of "the getaway" or the removal from a collective society. Could this have been the beginnings of dissatisfaction? Could this have been the beginnings of an exile?

I did not readily know the answers to such extended inquiry, especially not at the skinny, but muscular age of 13. Still, now that I am considerably older, and I have read more important works and have increased my "departure moments" is there a correlation between a given pattern of defection and the more you know?

Put another way--why is it that men and women have "departed" from their collective societies, or formed new ones in the process of their respective departures? If we are honest, as much as we can be, we may all hold opinions on the matter of exile, but few are willing to embark on its demands. And here is where it hits us! What exactly does exile demand from us?

Is there such a thing as the exile moment. A time-space "pause" where one chooses to go? What about non-choice exile and the like? Is it a romanticized view of the "down-time" or the "leave me alone" moment? Again, I pose these inquiries because I think that the older I get and the more intel I gather--I realize I know less and less, and the places left for such discovery of my true self are to be found in the forms of exile.

The issue here is not what more can we say on the position[s] of exile, but of those that have "tasted," "seen," and "heard," and ultimately become addicted to such a departure--are they ever coming back? Am I?


Monday, October 15, 2007

50 cent v. David Letterman: Abridged Reflections of Ellison's Trueblood and Mr. Norton

In a recent viewing of a popular late evening show, David Letterman introduced as his final guest, the rapper Curtis Jackson also known as NYC's 50 Cent. 50, pronounced for you non-native speakers of the ebonic dialect, as fitty (rhymes with shitty, but sounds like giddy) was "singing" his latest song, "Ayo Technology." The cameraman was keen to focus only on 50 and not on David, who I am sure was getting ready to break it down.

Now mind you--this is not a rant on musical tastes, albeit those that have them, but an analysis of a greater injustice, which I have witnessed. The network is CBS. The Late Night host is seasoned veteran David Letterman. The musical guest is 50 Cent. The limited audience that is captured by the camerman, who we hope still has a job, captures a mass of tangled white arms undulating like wave crests and troughs paying homage to the beat, and trying to raise the roof as it were. This action is not so far removed from the spectacle, or the gaze upon the beautifully exotic slave, or [O/]other as long as it is contained [by those in power]. As 50 Cent completed his minstrel show, David Letterman stood up from behind his desk, a seat of power and division, and proceeded to close the show with his typical remarks. Simple enough right? Not exactly friends. What happened next is typical of this blog's sobriquet--a Callide Curtus, or a subtle defection. Follow me.

When 50 Cent crooned his final, sleepy vocal, he then turned to shake David Letterman's hand. The hand, an extension of the arm, the shaft of diplomacy, the elongation of a civil existence, the breaking of bread and the giving of thanks, yes, the arm attached to the beat and pulse of the smile , the gaze, the face...was ignored. You say, but I saw the show and he only ignored 50 Cent for a short while--perhaps, a half minute or so. Still, the hand, and extended and distended function of embrace, which shuns exclusion, sought it. What was it exactly? That is, what is it to receive acknowledgment from a seasoned host, of salt and blood complexion? Did the extended arm go unnoticed by the cameraman? No. All viewers in several languages were able to witness and discern for themselves what took place, and trust me that there are folks reading this blog who do not know or care to "see" the larger picture painted in the mind by this event.

This is what Derrida assumes to be thought, or Hannah Arendt, a "thought-train," but I digress right? No. Thinkers "see" the diss[missal] of 50 Cent's hand, not racial profilers and compilers ready to point a finger, and invoke culpabilis but still invoke cowardice and utilize their blind spot so as not to offend. And yet, I observed it; I "saw" Ellison's Trueblood and Mr. Norton right there in High Definition (oh! that we could spend the time and unpack this phrasing, no), and America thought nothing of it. Eventually what did happen? What resoultion took place?

It was 50 Cent that desired closure and respect. His extended hand and arm were personifiably [a]shamed, and so he did what any "Bigger Thomas" would do (when embarassed by fear)--he took, and he did it by force. In fact, he created his own reality then and there. By shaking the seasoned veteran's hand forcefully and covering the [mis] communication with a patented "yes suh!" smile, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson was awarded with a quick "We're off the air. Please exit stage left" moment, and yes that action was caught by our faithful camerman.

The example above is a slice from a mouth-watering, jagged rock and I hope it produces the necessary agitation I have since read, lived and written about. I welcome your comments.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Relevance Redux Introductions et cetera

Greetings to all! I have just created what I hope to be an exciting intersection for e-articulations from across the disciplines. As a current graduate student--I would like to believe that the more educated one becomes the greater the desire toward a relevant code of manners. I suggest such a code to be an ethic of sorts; specifically, I subscribe to the debtor's ethic--a philosophical, life-long project. Those wishing to comment or enquire as to this belief system please feel free to post. I look forward to your comments.

I am currently at home grading student papers, but I am willing to reply to blog posts as follows. I do hope to have a blog that details my travels in academia as well as my personal geographical exile. I know not how much longer I will stay within the "walls" of America, but perhaps that is for another time and for another space.

Thank you for taking the time to read these ramblings and I look forward to your comments and our future correspondence.