“His curiosity and undisguised interest in others seem to be the elementary precondition for an unprejudiced approach to social reality.” (Rolf Lindner, talking about 19th C American Journalist and Chicago School sociologist Robert Park).
This blog is the product of an over-educated, hyper-analytical imagination trapped in the body of a 40-something Finnish-Canadian. My passion is knowledge and my life has been the relentless collection of ideas and experiences. Arrogant as it sounds, I like to live within the realm of the intellectual. I aspire to become a good one.
The trick is making intellectualism pay. A life of journalism was one means by which to stoke my passion while paying the bills. Teaching in higher education has been another. Both led me to Robert Park and the American pragmatist tradition. It is there that I now pay my dues as a graduate student.
Some would read the above and classify me as yet another middle-class, white elite liberal snob. Perhaps there’s something to that. I still see myself as a product of working-class immigrant sensibilities. I knew a lot of intellectuals in that world, too. When it comes to knowledge, I prefer not to discriminate, but I like my ideas to be free and your biases transparent. What is, is. I won’t judge you unless I know you. And we can’t know each other based upon a few lines of text. This blog is a qualitative exercise, a chance to get “acquainted with”, as Park used to say. In other words, this is supposed to take awhile.
Why here and why now? Many others have written how both journalism and higher education have failed to meet the idealized sense of their place as social institutions. I came to both naively, always on a quest to continue my education. Looking back, I have always been attracted to spaces that are creative, conversational, deliberative. I love a space in which I can learn out loud with others.
Journalism and higher education are both great spaces for the curious. I’ve had some of my best memories working in each. Both worlds hold the potential to make the world our personal classroom. But they remain, in the end, jobs. Increasingly precarious, careers dedicated to the free circulation of ideas and experiences — cultures of teaching and learning that are secure and safe for those who seek to explore difficult and challenging ideas — are harder and harder to come by. In these days of globalization and neo-liberalism, there’s always some external master to serve that would love to keep you and your ideas in a box. There’s also less and less time for people in those worlds to think. As a result, what we all get to know (and get to talk about) grows narrower… and narrower.. and narrower.
The age of neo-liberalism is a tough one for the journalist or scholar to exist within, if they’re truly addicted to intellectualism. I feel real joy trying on ideas with someone who shares with me that thrill of raw potential for discovery. Whether on a story or in the hallway with a colleague from another department, conversations like that are what keep my fires stoked. Perhaps, in conversation, you find something new about the world. Perhaps you discover something new within yourself. Often, when you talk to someone whose world you know nothing about, you feel stupid. And if you’re doing it right, you actually are. Absolute stupidity — not the relative kind we’re used to thinking about — is the stop just prior to the Next Big Idea. You have to be willing to go where no one has gone before, and all that. And most of us can do that on the cheap through talk. Some can even make a living from it. But most, in this age of digital media, are pitching their own tent for yet another revival.
So, this blog. I can’t promise how often I’ll be here or how insightful my own lens might be. But I wanted a space to continue the many great conversations I’ve had with so many people about the issues I find interesting. Of course, this is my blog so it is a bit of a didactic start – a one-way conversation, at best. But I hope the curious will find my tent and come in to sit a spell to see what flows through it. All are welcome.