I am obviously doing a number of things badly.
Off in a bit to give my Montaigne/Emerson paper. Talking about Montaigne in Bordeaux seems an arrogatory act. My defense is that I hope only to say something that will be of use to someone, whether in a scholarly or a personal way.
A little poem to memorialize the Toomer’s Oaks.
(After the felling of the Toomer’s Oaks)
Aren’t they just trees?
–Yes, they are—they were.
–And weren’t they dying anyway?
–Yes, they were—and I am—and you are too.
Dying. But someone killed them.
(Yes, you can kill something that is already dying.
If you doubt that, shoot someone with a terminal illness,
then plead your innocence.)
–But they were just trees.
–Yes—they were. But all trees have a kind of dignity,
A dignity revealed in the way they call on us to contemplate them:
St. Augustine knew that, and Arthur Schopenhauer too.
And these trees, wrapped as they were in celebration,
Wrapped as they were in meaning,
Called on us more insistently than most—even demanded contemplation.
Poisoning them, destroying their roots, was an attack on meaning,
A meaning that some, wrapped in unmeaning, could not bear.
Meaning has weight. You can crumble under it, or understand it, your call.
Yes, just trees. And these are just my students, this is just my university,
This is just my life.
–But the meaning of all these things—you just put it there, gilding and staining,
In burnt orange and blue. It is not real. It is a collective delusion. Tradition
Is no mode of access to what is real.
–Of course it is, it always has been, and it always will be. Tradition makes
Values available for appreciation, for appropriate response:
And your response is the tree’s judgment on you. Luckily for you, they are, they were,
Since I have complained here (in a poem) and in the hallways (in prose, I guess) about Husserl’s writing, let me offer up the following wonderful passage, tacked onto the end of the “Noesis and Noema” chapter of Ideas.
In closing we would add the following remark. We have expounded phenomenology as a science in its beginnings. Only the future can teach us how many of the results of the analyses we have here attempted are destined to last. Much of what we have described must certainly, sub specie aeterni, be otherwise described. But we should and must strive in each step we take to describe faithfully what we really see from our own point of view and after the most earnest consideration. Our procedure is that of a scientific traveller in an unknown part of the world who carefully describes what he finds on the trackless ways he takes–ways that will not always be the shortest. He should be full of the sure consciousness of bringing to expression what in relation to time and circumstance is the thing that must be said, which, because it faithfully expresses what has been seen, preserves its value always–even when further research calls for new descriptions with manifold improvements. In a similar temper we wish in what further lies before us to be loyal expounders of phenomenological formations, and for the rest to preserve the habit of inner freedom even in regard to our own descriptions.
There. Hard to do much better than that, I think.
I’ll be giving this talk later this week. Here are the first few paragraphs (please forgive a few still-to-be-corrected typos). Opening Section of PI and Three Kinds of Illusion
Off to New Orleans tomorrow. APA Central Meeting. Looking forward to seeing old friends. If any readers of the blog are there, look me up. I’m easy to spot: just look for a pro offensive lineman gone to seed–and likely wearing some silly hat.