My favorite kind-eyed Armitage pic at the moment: Richard Armitage at ComicCon, July 14, 2012, San Diego. This is how I want to learn to look at the world. Source.
I spent most of last night on the phone with a close friend of mine from my old institution, someone who’d been away when I left, and with whom my contact had become a bit tenuous. He’s back at the institution after a research leave and the problems there are rearing their heads to snarl at him, and he wanted to be in touch to ask advice about some of them. I don’t know how much my counsel is really worth, but I told him what I thought. I also told him that I hadn’t regretted leaving for as long as one second — I regretted leaving friends behind, and I miss a few restaurants and stores and cinemas in the city itself, but I shed not one tear of sadness over my detachment from the institution. I told him that while I still have problems, and weird PTSD moments, and probably will for some time, the trauma is starting to fade.
He asked me whether I thought it was the institution specifically that was the problem, that particular type of institution, or the world of academe in general. I said I didn’t know, but that I had stopped finding thinking about the question that way productive, since I could never assemble enough data to generate any meaningful answers. I said that I had started to ask, instead of what was causing the problem, rather what it was that I wanted and needed, and not which institution would suit me best. He asked me whether I had an answer. I said, I don’t know completely, yet, but I have to have a place where I can live out my creativity, such as it is, to the fullest extent possible, and where what I’m doing is valuable in itself and not because it’s instrumental to some other purpose. Where what I do is important because I understand it in that way and not because it follows someone else’s rules.
He’s someone who knows about the blog although he doesn’t read it, and so when he asked me, how did you figure out those things, I said, that has been the big lesson of blogging. And I realized he’s right. Blogging let me create a space that was about my own needs, and in learning to navigate the dilemmas that appear here, I’ve been practicing to how to recognize and fulfill my own creative impulses. A microcosm for dealing with a larger problem.
Armitagemania opened up my senses, and helped me confront some troublesome questions, and raised others, and compelled me to start blogging. Blogging found me people to come along on the journey with me, and let me have a place where what I think is important is what is dealt with in the way best suited to my own creative capacities. It let me see that what I desire is legitimate — not something shameful in need of discipline — and that writing is the way to harness to desire for my own ends.
He asked me at the end what I was going to do next, if I was going to stick with universities, and I said, I don’t know, but I never want to do anything any more that instrumentalizes and denies my creativity in the way that penultimate job did. For creativity I need to find this place of joy and enjoyment, and that’s the kind of job I need next. If it doesn’t facilitate every creative moment, at least it must not constantly denigrate them.
A year ago, I couldn’t have had this conversation; it would have devastated me. There have been a lot of moments of sorrow in the last six years and surely those moments are not over. But I’m stronger! All of these experiences have helped me to know myself better and also to start to look at the world and myself with kinder eyes. And then to express what’s inside. What a huge gift. I don’t always understand it; I don’t always succeed in my aims. Even so, I hope it grows and grows, because I feel best when I’m facilitating those feelings, of kindness and respect and concentration toward my creativity, which lets me work harder to be generous to others.
Thanks Armitage, Thanks Armitagemania, Thanks Armitagemaniacs.