Other than the familiar retreat of walking or writing (or reading or photographing or cooking), teaching has been the cushion to soften reentry’s crash landing, one that is characterized less by violent or jerking movements and more by a persistent cloud of disorientation. I wrote in a letter to a friend the other day that it is in the space of teaching — one where I have the chance to also be a learner and fellow looker and seer — that I am speaking a language that I recognize and that makes sense to me. The procedural apparatus surrounding those moments is utterly foreign, at best, demoralizing, at worst. This is perhaps what marks last night’s class as especially moving — I take no credit for it except to thank myself for having the good sense to be in collaboration with thoughtful and humane people, two of whom shared stories and experiences with the students in the form of dialogue and an exercise (although to say “exercise” feels diminishing somehow) on reflection and seeing and, quite frankly, retaining one’s humanity in the midst of the seemingly intractable institutional morass.
On that note… Should the time come for me to resign — because at this rate, who knows if I’ll make it to retirement — I should like to think I can be as precise and concise as William Faulkner was in his letter of resignation from his position as postmaster, addressed to his superiors at the University of Mississippi:
As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.
This, sir, is my resignation.
For more, see Letters of Note.