Monday, February 18, 2008

This blog was restarted because of weighty concerns.

I’m so worried about this. I think about blogs and blogging all the time, but I’m not convinced it’s for me. I had a blog for like three days last year (the first post was the following: “Every day, I think to myself, self, you should start a blog, but then I realize, self, you have nothing interesting to say”), and I was too worried to keep it up then too. And I write to myself all the time, and, well, you should do one thing every day that scares you.

Okay, I know everyone does the first post about being really concerned slash some vague promise about updating. I did the first but I’m not going to do the second.

I had an academic crisis last year that I thought was over. Who am I kidding, it’s not even close. The first time was in the middle of Shakespeare II: Tragedies and Romances. Out of the clear blue sky, I couldn’t understand, let alone, respect anyone who spent his entire life on evaluating the differences between the Folio and the Quarto versions of King Lear, let alone that blend of the two that everyone reads in high school. Which is bizarre, because literature is in my blood. My grandmother taught high school English for thirty-five years. My brother is a Great Books major. I won the Senior English Department Award of my class of over six hundred. At the time, I was designing costumes and makeup for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And suddenly, the whole thing made me want to throw up – I questioned ever interest I ever had in poetry or fiction. Or non-fiction, for that matter. Whom does it help? Whose life does it make easier? Whom does it feed? All I could think was, what good is any of this? I stopped going to class, but then when I came back, I couldn’t pay attention to the lecture and wrote pages and pages about the disgust I had for it. Eventually I came to some sort of tentative, somewhat unstable “the world needs all kinds of people, and literature is a branch of the arts, expressing humanity and providing comfort and an outlet to all.”

And it came roaring back today in a language development class. So, not in the context of literature but research. I mean, it’s been roaring back for quite some time now, especially after working with autistic kids this summer. So many of the conclusions research makes are so profoundly useless. Like, an unreasonable percentage of conclusions. I’ve had conversations that temporarily reassure me the vast and far-reaching benefits of research, but today was the second time in class I’ve seen videos of Genie, the girl psycholinguists made famous. She was kept in a closet on a toilet for the first thirteen years of her life, her parents slid food through the door, her father barked at her. That’s it. Thirteen years. Psychologists love it because you can’t intentionally deprive someone of language and see what happens, for the sake of knowledge. But you can find abused kids like Genie and see how they do! And the video is of psychologists trying to teach her language, and Genie can of course hardly form words, let alone string them into something coherent. That’s fine, that’s therapy; it’s clear she wants to learn words. Like the first time, my eyes fill with tears. But as it ended, my professor, still smiling, commented on how interesting it was that she could communicate about events that happened in her past before she knew any language. And again, my eyes filled with tears. Why is that comment, that use of Genie, okay?

I realize over and over that the only thing I can conceivably do with my life is work with people. To make them feel better. About life.

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