November comes with a sense of acceleration. December follows, one thinks, and deadlines begin to loom. Isn’t it odd how what from October looked like abundance, suddenly looks like scarcity in the matter of a few days? It’s the same with the looming decades, I’ve found. Thirty-nine is an awful age to be, you’re almost forty. But forty is not an awful age to be because you have ten years before anything drastic like being fifty arrives.
I’m writing like the dickens, and improving, and learning that through a gradual accumulation of minute improvements. The problem is that there are so many things to hold on to, there is a steady erosion at a rate alarmingly like that of the accumulation. Do you reach an age where all you do is slip around your mound of sand, gathering one side while the other goes? Is this what November brings to the academic consciousness? The world darkens, the leaves fall, and effort continues, but the question is, does progress?
I’ve read a lot of worthwhile things and not as much junk as I feared I would (but I definitely have had it with reading junk). I still think our notions of learning are activist notions: work all the time and be exhausted, have more reading than can be responsibly digested or contemplated, and so on. I wonder if we aren’t such bad readers because nobody takes time to work through things slowly and carefully. Do you know that aspiring philosophers in late antiquity took three years to read their way through Plato? That’s what I’m talking about. We hasten on toward deadlines and destinations where quantity can be measured. There is in the academy a lot of learned ignorance. I may not know what I should, but that’s one think I have learned for sure.