03. July 2014 · Comments Off on Bedrock · Categories: NM. Princes and Kings

They exempt some of us from taking the required course on logic.  Read the textbook if you like, Dr. van Cronenberg says.  I guess they figure our engines are good enough to skip a tune-up before navigating the ancient goat paths all the way to deconstruction.

There are no promises.  Nothing says you can’t step on the gas and speed off a cliff like Thelma and Louise, even (with greater euphoria) in a Ferrari.

For me, those lovely gossamer wings now live happily ever after in the fairy tales of my childhood.




I have crawled into the cave and touched bedrock and can never again think that it is all rubble, no matter how many towers break and fall and level the ground above.

We hear a lot about destruction.   From the bombed out wastelands of Europe left by the armies of the Second World War, reborn star thinkers come to teach us new approaches to riddles more ancient than the sphinx.

Because there are so few of us (philosophy students), they encourage us to audit as many of the graduate courses, seminars and lectures as we can.  A few lectures have a broader audience.

In an overflowing assembly hall, we pay hushed attention to Dr. Victor Frankl as he tells about his anguished search for meaning, forced on him while facing extinction in a death camp.   Death was almost preferable to the degradation he endured.

Then he heard a tango playing somewhere, and the music filled him with unbearable longing for the life that he was not living, that by all rights should have been his.  That could still be his again.  No, he would not prefer death, he would cling to life.

In a seminar attended by a few post-graduates, a sprinkling of professors, and us, we hear Dr. Paul Ricoeur scalpel neatly through layers of the symbolism of evil.  He gives pre-written lectures.   No need for notes.  At each session he provides us with a printed copy of his lecture.

There are many others in between.

A tall man in a white cassock stands at the front of the classroom.  He reminds me of Mother Paulinus.  I see the same light blue eyes, the same quiet manner and the unmistakable air of authority.



Dr. Luijpen says that he will show us how to navigate a path through the present chaos.  As I listen to him, I realize that he has a map.

I move back to the front row.  I see that his course has a structure.  I take notes again.   Although the name of the course is the Phenomenology of Social Reality, it is really about epistemology.  How far we have come in the ongoing discussion about how we know.

There is one exam, at the end of the course.   Dr. Luijpen hands out bluebooks.   Write anything you want relating to this course, he says.

I can see the entire course as a whole because Dr. Luijpen did not just ramble on.  He had a clear structure.  It is not hard to fit the main points into the space of a bluebook.

Grades are not so important anymore.  I am not on any scholarship, I am working my way through college now, and I have no one to account to but myself.

I think that I have been in school long enough, even though Dr. van Cronenberg says of course you must continue – three more years, that’s all.   You will get your doctorate in three years.

I can’t explain to anyone that the pull towards New York is getting irresistible.  I worked there for two summers.  I feel that my life must go in another direction, in that city.  I can’t say why.

I do things that will keep me from continuing in academia.  I drop the German language course that I also need, besides French, for a doctorate.  It is almost as though I am preventing myself from changing my mind.

For some reason (which I will realize only years later), I feel the need to take a course in embryology.


Double HelixDouble Helix


The required course before embryology is comparative anatomy.   That is the course I should now take to complete my science requirements.   This is my last term.   I have no more time for extra science courses.

But I ask anyway.

Because I have maintained A’s in biology since high school, they make an exception and allow me to sign up for embryology.  Comparative anatomy is now a whole course I must study on my own.

If I get a grade lower than C it would disqualify me from graduate school altogether.   And if I flunked this biology course I would not even have the required credits in science to graduate.

Why am I doing this?  I don’t know.

It seems that the landscape of my life is shifting.  I am myself again, being pulled ahead by that core magnet.  I notice tugs and hunches and dreams.  I notice out-of-the-blue prompts from the universe.

I remember being haunted by Shakespeare’s King Lear at an outdoor summer theater.  Suddenly, I want to know more about this wounded king.  I sign up for a course.



–  King Lear by William Shakespeare

 Very quickly we find out that our eminent professor is forgetful and erratic.  He assigns one play and lectures on a different one in class.  He puts into tests trivia questions about Shakespearean quotes found on public buildings around the city.

They say that he has even flunked graduate students.  Students quickly transfer to other courses to protect their grades.

My schedule does not allow me to fit in another similar course.  I see that this professor has wonderful, profound insights into the plays, if you don’t mind winging it.   I don’t mind, and I take the risk.

Yet one grade now matters to me more than ever.  I want to get a good grade from Dr. Luijpen.  I need to know from him that I am getting it right.

When I leave, I will not just stop thinking about these things that I have thought about my whole life.   I want to be sure that I can navigate the new terrain.  His grade is important for that reason.

Dr. Luipen gives me an A.  Yes!

Now I know that wherever I am headed, if it gets dark and chaotic, I have this map, a sliver of light, with which I can begin again.

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