Friday, September 14, 2012

The end of week four. Fifty-six weeks to go before I take qualifying exams. It's getting easier, schedule wise. On Tuesday I woke up dreaming of categories and on Wednesday I woke up from a nap dreaming of reading. The physical strain of the academic work I hadn't anticipated but I'm settling in and by nine thirty on Wednesday night I experienced the strange sensation of having caught up with the day's work. I celebrated by eating some crackers and cheese spread and a week old episode of the Daily Show. This weekend I have two full days of work, preparing for teaching, preparing for Monday and Tuesday class, starting a paper that is due next week, and grading student essays. I would be happy to get a good start on three of the five tasks, but am slowly gaining confidence that if I don't, it will be okay. 

The cats are settling in and there is one sitting next to me as I write this. The brown one stopped puking and the black one started yowling, which means things are back to normal. They don't come to greet me at the door like they used to but that's probably a function of the distance between their preferred sleeping spot under the bed and the door. I gave them a stern talking to about their duties as house cats but they didn't seem take the lecture seriously. I miss writing like this in the blog or otherwise and right now, it feels good to be doing this. I finished reading the David Mitchell novel The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was pretty good. About Dutch traders in Japan during the end of the eighteenth century, and mystery and intrigue. His narrative is constantly interrupted by the details and movements of the characters, and it was a book about moral conviction, its pros and cons. In the last week I've been reading, at night, in bed, Violence and Splendor by a philosopher named Alphonso Lingus. Here is one short essay from the book:
The Stone

On my last day in the Highlands of West Papua, a Lani man I came to know gave me his precious possession, a black stone some four inches long strangely marked with think white lines and thin white lines intersecting in the zones the thick lines squared off. It is oval in shape and smooth and nestles in the palm of my hand. He gave me to understand that he carried it with him whenever he left his compound to go into the jungle, and was giving it now to me to guide me on my onward wanderings. He had seen that every day I wandered about without any discernible objective or goal, and understood that I had wandered over the planet to New Guinea without any task or project.

Older white travelers would say that this stone is for the Papuan a fetish. What is it for me? It is not really a cherished souvenir of his friendship; in fact I can no longer remember very clearly what he looked like. Yet I am often drawn again to this stone; it summons me.