My Favorite “Store-Off-the-Grid”, (where I sit in the mornings and enjoy my coffee)
Being back in my home is good tonight. Mozart plays softly in the background. The hot tea is soothing. I love my writing desk and library area. But in my mind’s eye, I’m still at the “store”, my favorite hideaway when I can get out of the city. I probably posted in earlier blogs (I don’t go back and read them much) that I’ve been reading a great deal about Martin Heidegger. I have zero interest in the details of his political leanings, but am intrigued with his philosophy that includes amazing insight into art, poetry and pre-Socratic thought. And I have always been intrigued with stories surrounding the cabin he had built adjacent to the town of Todtnauberg where he frequently withdrew to study and write. He did not enjoy life in the city of Freiburg where he lived and taught in the university. He later turned down the Chair of Philosophy offered to him in Berlin, because it would prevent his frequent withdrawals to his cabin. As for myself, I’m glad to have a home in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas, four minutes from where I teach. But I love so much more these three-and-a-half hour drives out of the city to a remote spot in the country, to a dirt road where no one drives by, to a spot of absolute quiet and solitude. It is in that place that my soul has been restored repeatedly. All my life I have dreamed of such a location.
Martin Heidegger’s Cabin in the Black Forest
Reading Thoreau’s Journals inside the “Store”
I want to respond to a passage from Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut, having finished reading the book this weekend:
. . . it is possible to consider the hut and house as talismanic for two positions decisive in Heidegger’s biography, which Albert Borgmann terms “provincialism” and “cosmopolitanism.” These positions are often considered in opposition. Tropes recur by which advocates of each position attempt to dismiss the alternative. Cosmopolitans dismiss the provincial as invidious: introvert, inbred, prone to exclusion, and reliant upon romantic myth. Provincials dismiss the cosmopolitan as deluded: bound up in abstract systems and priorities, entranced by the fickleness of fashion, setting itself and its self-appointed heroes on false pedestals. Although such polarities are inevitably caricatures, and provincial and cosmopolitan positions always remain more nuanced, their identification can be helpful.
I love it when someone writes what I’ve thought about for years, and writes it so well! For twenty-eight years, I have been a citizen of both worlds–teaching in the suburban neighborhoods of a large city and withdrawing as much as possible to remote sanctuaries. Being single, I love the privacy and quiet of my home after a day in the classroom, and when I can leave the city, I look for the quietest places in the country. My life’s work has been in the public schools full time and the universities part time. When I retire at the end of May, I’ll gladly accept the offer of a neighboring university to continue teaching part time, some of it online. I am so thrilled at this new chapter, the idea of no longer being under contract from 7:15 till 3:15 five days a week.
My public life in the classroom has been mostly scintillating throughout the decades–I have had an overwhelmingly positive and affirming crowd of students (probably 99.8% respectful and inspiring, only the occasional “turd”). Being an educator has allowed me to remain a student for life, which is what I truly craved–I hated the thought of leaving a life of scholarship behind after completing graduate school. How wonderful to be paid to study, to learn and share daily the things that matter to me. I cannot say enough about the richness of teaching in the areas of religion, art, philosophy and literature. Life as a public educator has been very rewarding to me.
At the same time, I must confess that I am drawn to reading books like Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, along with the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Long ago I came to terms with the reality that I like being alone, and crave space for such times. I have always believed that I could do my job better if I had time to withdraw and recharge my batteries. Fortunately for me, life has provided those opportunities and for the most part I have been able to avoid burnout.
At age 62, I am more sensitive to the noisy clatter of school hallways, the public school obsession to call meetings, and the growing paperwork, records and accountability demanded, often by a bureaucracy that continues to create “positions” designed for compiling data and checking boxes on reports. I have never had respect for elected politicians who pass laws governing an educational enterprise that they have never themselves understood or spent time studying. And I have noticed with disdain throughout the years that they continue to pass more laws designed to cripple the work of conscientious educators, and then use the data designed to prove that public education is faltering so they can convince tax payers that schools would be better if they were run by private businesses. I have had the pleasure to work for a district that is far better than any state or federal agency can evaluate with piles of data. And I have been fortunate to work inside of schools with administrators that let the teachers do their jobs. Real education occurs inside the classroom when the teacher is freed up to study his/her area of expertise and design creative ways to share this with students primed to learn. All thinkers know this. To sum up, I am getting out at a good time; most likely I stayed too long . . .
Leaving the Store . . . Until Next Time
I have not been posting on the blog with much frequency of late. But after this weekend, I still have plenty on my mind, and I’m glad to have this avenue of expression. So thank you again for reading . . .
I make art to understand.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.