The College Experience

For curious eyes only,
voyeurs watching ideas mate.
God made the universe to be fruitful;
man made the university to be sterile.
If Truth is alive
he does not prowl these halls.
If Wisdom lifts up her hands here
she’d better have the right answer.
Professor is our proud euphemism
for eunuch.

I do not do research.
I do search.
They’ve not yet found an answer
worth finding again.

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7 Comments on “The College Experience”

  1. Vivian Says:

    Whoa!! Did something specific prompt this? It is very strong, but, as a friend who read it said, it sounds angry. That’s not typical of most of your stuff. What’s up?

    • Nothing in particular is up. My experience with academia has not been all good, of course, and the past boils around and sometimes the result is a bit more severe than one might expect. I didn’t feel particularly angry when I wrote it. It was inspired by reading an obituary in the NY Times of David Blackwell, a mathematician who died recently. Something he said pulled the trigger.

  2. dantrewear Says:

    …it’s definitely an exhortation/warning to those of us with Professor as part of their job title (I put a sheepish hand up here) to act human from time to time… was there a particular type of institution you were thinking of?
    Peace, Dan

    • Mostly I have worked at state universities, in Missouri and more recently New York. Actually most of my memories of being a professor are regrets at my own short-comings, but there was more recently an ominous sense of disease in the academic world. The American part of western civilization at least is in a bad state of decline and has little promise of coming out of it. I only wrote one other poem about my association with academia, Crows That Speak, posted somewhere in this blog, and it is fairly negative as well. There are good professors in the world, and may they bear fruit and increase, and I sense that you are one of them.
      Peace to you too and your household. Carroll

      • dantrewear Says:

        …so I just had a look at ‘Crows That Speak’. I can relate to this; academia is highly adversarial, especially in the last decade (in Australia, at least; the rot may have set in earlier in the USA).

        “They’ve not yet found an answer / worth finding again” – I thought about this a bit, and you may be right, although the practical nature of my science discipline means that some answers are useful, and as such are revisited.

        Maybe the point is not the answer but the questions being asked. For all our arrogance and bluster, none of which I am completely immune from, academics are like everyone else; we/they search for meaning, self-worth; something bigger than ourselves (although many would not acknowledge that, I suspect). The biggest intellectual bullies also turn out, often, to be the least secure in themselves. I just work out my insecurity in different ways.

        Another song quote for you!

        “I went to see the doctor of philosophy
        With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
        He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
        He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
        I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper
        And I was free.”

        Indigo Girls, “Closer To Fine”

  3. Yes, Crows That Speak is definitely concerned with the adversarial nature of academia. I understand the insecurity, and the system that engenders it. It occurs to me in thinking about what you said, that the discomfort I expressed was not so much with individual people – most professors I worked with were as likeable and good as any other group of people – but with the mindset the system of academia forces the best of us into, and which I was never highly successful at resisting.
    The answers I meant in the line you referred to is not scientific answers per se, but exactly the answers to meaning and value and the Good. Personally I love science. It is the glory of God to hide a thing and the glory of man to search it out – I’m probably misquoting badly from a psalm or a prophet here. I certainly don’t want to give anyone the impression that I look down on scientists or their work. If anything, I am jealous that I don’t have the abilities to enter into it more fully myself. God has given you guys a great privilege.
    Thanks for the Indigo Girls quote. I have never listened to them and I will take it as a recommendation.

  4. Eric Alagan Says:

    What a damnation! But you touch on what I think transpires for education in many institutions…

    You notice something – as long as the guy died 300 years ago > whatever he says must be true!

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