Six students in first meeting. Surprised. Pleased. All showed with enthusiasm and sincere interest. Changed my mood for better. 10:24, and three still remain. Love enthusiasm in students, when I see it. Makes me feel like I’m successfully executing instruction. Coffee still working for me, internally. Need to write letters today. Want to write one to Shelly, an old friend from the old neighborhood who now lives in NYC and is a therapist and who studies and practices Zen, Yoga too I believe, and has been sober for THREE YEARS! Good for her, I noted yesterday. I want to see how and why she does what she does. How she builds her Personhood, and how she views love and life and occupation, the job.. and what New York is like compared to San Carlos where we grew up.
10:44. And the last two leave. I envy the student life, researching and having binders and notebooks and thoughts to develop and brainstormings for essays. And I can have that now, I will immerse myself in student life and practice and I will start with this book, ‘Big Sur’, all the different voices of Kerouac and the Beat Generation and the notion of “Beat Time” that Paula, a student in the SRJC 6PM 1A section introduced in her first submission for the semester. I read the first couple pages of this novel and only experience paranoia and uneasiness and curiosity; depreciation of Self among other things. I need a binder for my findings, like Morgan, one of the students that showed today and just left with Ms. Suzanne, another strong student in this 9:30AM section.
Now the first student of the 11AM section shows. He’s usually the first to show after 9:30 lets out. I compose myself, and think of me, this Me, as a student, and I’ll add this to my to-do’s for Friday night’s retreat, after getting home from Mom and Dad’s– made dinner plans last night, couldn’t resist; the company of Mom and Dad always generates ideas and material and reminds me of when I was a student in Mr. Coleman’s class, the conversations with Dad– I always thought Mr. Coleman and Dad were essentially the same person, just different vocations and avocations and placements.
Another 11AM-er shows, sits, opens her laptop. Ready for work. So am I.
Still only two so far. I’m wondering how many will show at SRJC. I’m actually anticipating about the same or maybe less, hard to tell, each campus with its own climate– I need to get a couple articles for a critical paper I want to write on Kerouac and his Buddhist voice, and his maturation in Zen; the centeredness of his core. Okay, time to get to work…
Turns out they just came here to have a quiet place to work and type and build their ideas, these three. Coincidence, me too! I take notes on the notion of ‘toska’, mentioned by one of the students here, the second to arrive. And I see much of that sentiment in Kerouac’s work, and the healing nuances in his short prose style, meant to mend this malady. I’ll start my formal writing on JK with a 500-word reaction to the opening three chapters of Big Sur, the irregular meter and punctuation pattern and his mood and fear and paranoia. And even a low estimation of self, the name Duluoz.. there something in it. ‘Dull’, I hear, but ‘u’ and ‘oz’ I’m not quite sure of.– But then with a little internet excavation I find that Duluoz, pronounced ‘de-LOOZ’, is French-Canadian slang for ‘louse’, a contemptible person, one unpleasant and unwanted even.
My students, Erin and Aurora, not saying a word. “Are you guys okay, can I help you?” I asked. “No, I’m fine,” Aurora said, Erin shaking her head. I am let to go further into my work, and I find gem atop gem– sources that provide precisely what will build my ideas and topics for my papers.. the etymology of Kerouac’s alter ego’d name.. and why, search for identity in going to Paris, to track his lineage and family, and Self. To find some steady source and honing of Personhood.
Dad and I have always talked about Self and the notion of and what it takes to be “intellectually” sovereign, to think for yourself. And this too is at the anchor of Kerouc’s ambitious vessel, both holding him back and pushing himself forward. As seen in ‘Road’, Kerouac’s search for newness drives him, the hunger and thirst for the visual, for the experience, for new Life. Duality, I’m thinking, hence the doppelgänger, if you want to tag it so. Conflict in Kerouac, the universal attributes of such. And escape, running from something.. think of his writing style, the whim’d or “spontaneous” prose that’s known as his.
Love feeling a student today, and I credit my students. Aurora just asked Erin and I another question about Kerouac, to gather thoughts for her paper. Then silence. Right now, we’re three writers in our own composition bubbles. Kerouac talks about the natural elements around him as if they’re menacing (chapter 3). Highlighting not so much paranoia but specific fear and a sense of victimhood, being the prey in a situation, much the way he was preyed upon after the publication of ‘Road’. Another thought Dad and I often take apart apply then put back together is “intellectual honesty”. Kerouac is exemplary in such ideology and application in the way he writes, especially if truly with cathartic intent. And if that catharsis is not reached, then what? I don’t think Kerouac’s brain went there. I think he just leapt, hence the long paragraphs in ‘Big Sur’ and his narrative in the Duluoz works, all of which I will concede I haven’t read. But I will. When I was in grad school, my Theory Seminar professor, Jake Fuchs, had one author within, upon, and about which he build his pedagogical life, Alexander Pope. That was his. Kerouac is mine. At this age, I know, I know, I’m certain.
Fire about me this morning. The search.. that’s what student life is about, searching for what YOU want. The ideas. Being on your own Road. And going backwards to chapter two, JK mentions a “fear of eerie death dripping” (10) and I can only think of that idea of Toska, something inside you, whether emotional, perceptive, or thoughtful, that’s nothing but parasitic, eating at your reason and composure.
Everything on this desk right now, at class’ head or front or helm, conveying the scholastic sensation. Textbook, notebook, calendar, pen, laptop and bag. I’m a student, studying. And I don’t want a thesis or specific forward for this research yet. I want to enjoy the journey. I’ll get to a destination eventually. No rush.
I feel like the three of us in here are a study group, occasionally getting offtopic and talking about news events, like the Michael Brown matter in MO, but then we return to silence and typing and our papers. This is what the American Scholar is. In a room. Quiet. Writing. Steadied.