On the last day of classes, there were beautiful things. In my 9am class, Sir said, Don’t write poetry that lacks sincerity. In my 2pm class, Sir refused to give us an extension for a paper initially set to be due on Wednesday. In my 5pm class, a more composed presentation, and then some picture-taking. This is how October gets a thick spread of vegetable and tuna, which is to say: a healthy bread against the perenniallity of starvation. Here, I will try to be sincere in writing.
At 9am, we were curious about the usefulness of theory. How inseparate is the academy from its society, even though the academy won’t even own this society sometimes. For instance:
Academy (wearing fancy clothes, driving fancy cars, clutching eighty-eight books (now Ipads and tablets for many, pretending to be avaricious, or for others, really minding their tasks as ‘technicians,’ to borrow R’s word): “I have my own world. I AM a world in itself. What society, what poverty, what social injustice you’re talking about?”
Today, in between preparing the outline for that paper-due-Wednesday, concerning Lakambini Sitoy and her fiction, I remember Walter Benjamin and Fredric Jameson and even Terry Eagleton, and all those people the jeepney drivers won’t even have a care (following a consensus in yesterday’s 9am class) and then I also remember a tacit consensus (the usually half-participative class was its normal self yesterday) in the 2pm class: scholars/academics just repeat each other, contributing not much new stuff to our body of ‘knowledge.’
I will refuse to cluster Benjamin and Jameson and Eagleton together, under a group of ‘scholars’ who fervently accentuates the significance of getting at/getting back to the root of things (I remember here the “radix” word again, a lot of times mentioned in the 9am and the 2pm classes), seriously getting back to the past and salvaging it for arranging, for making sense of the present, and the future.
To Benjamin: “that is why we don’t believe in derivations and sources, we never remember what has befallen us” (The Metaphysics of Youth, in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Volume 1, page 12).
To Jameson: “…the retrospective dimension indispensable to any vital reorientation of our collective future – has meanwhile itself become a vast collection of images…” (In Postmodernism, or, the cultural logic of Late Capitalism, page 66).
To Eagleton: the “absence of memories of collective and effective, political action” (In After Theory, page 7)
This, I read, is neither the operation of a collective unconscious nor whatever of that sort: Benjamin wrote that in the early 20th century; Jameson in the 80s most probably, and Eagleton just two, three years ago. This I think with more certitude is the operation of a collective experience, and a similar manner of making sense of that experience.
So maybe not all theory is highfalutin after all, highfalutin and eventually doubtable because of their seeming lack of ‘immediate usefulness,’ another phrase from yesterday’s 9am class. We can forget Derrida, sure, especially when frantically asking ourselves how do we find money to be able to enroll for the next semester; or we can dispose of Lacan and his Imaginary-Symbolic-Real triad (despite the bright interests it can spur) especially when what is realest to us are the rising prices of sweet potatoes and our long-coveted book or that dress in the mall we don’t have enough money to buy. But some theory hovers above the ground not just because they are ‘esoteric,’ but because they manifest the potential of zooming out, getting above the immediate, seemingly disordered and unrelated phenomena, and render them more comprehensible, more sensible, however ironic that is. After all, it is ironies that define our being here in the world (my favorite: think of billionaire Henry Sy and his thousands of eight-hours-a-day employees).
I remember Bazin yesterday, when the 5pm class finally lapsed to its end and there were merry moments of picture-taking. Photographs capture memories, freeze events in time, so that memories will have a more tangible form, and not just something that exists in the mind. This is why I think there is something anomalous, something perverted with the term “vivid memories.” For I think memories are by default dead, memories are not vivid; the only things vivid are the things that are concrete and in-here, in-our-time, right now. I guess to say ‘vivid memories’ is to confer to memories an illusionary kind of power, of charm, an antidote against its default deadness. It is okay; it is understandable. We need to have an anchor; memories are a good candidate.
On the last day of classes, my classmates were already looking forward to a drink next week, when exams will be over and at least two of the three remaining papers will have been submitted. Exactly, this is how I would like to end, with Baudelaire, and his famous lines from his famous poem which I first heard from my Literature professor in the undergrad, during the sendoff for graduating students two years ago:
“Time to get drunk!
Don’t be martyred slaves of Time,
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!”