As spring’s fervid grasp permits life to flourish, we at AU might take a moment to record our progress as we arrive at this season of rebirth. Foremost among methods of self-germination may, for we studious AU students, be the act of writing itself. Each essay has affected us as a dialectic between the course material and our existing natures; experience meets education in the manner of water on freshly seeded soil. To write about how we feel about our studies can help us associate writing with more than just coursework.
Henry Miller described writing as a transformative process, a miracle far surpassing the sum total of the input of ideas and the output of text: “Words are never just words, even when they seem just words. For the hand that writes there is the mind that reads, the soul that deciphers. Some write syllabically, some cabalistically, some esoterically, some epigrammatically, some just ooze out like fat cabbages or weeds…Writing is not a game played according to rules. Writing is a compulsive, and delectable thing. Writing is its own reward. The men of 2500 A.D. will enjoy reading this little passage, I am sure” (Miller, 104). Our coursework plants the seeds of our future selves, and it is with these protean possibilities in mind (and the universal potential we hold to burst forth into best possible versions of ourselves) that I’d suggest we approach the season of spring. Time may be in limited supply as the outside tantalizes us with more options, but it is the inner garden, the garden of our academic spirit, that also bears fruit from our tending.
Writing is a Form of Remembering
Jacques Derrida notes that writing, like remembering, allows us to cut through the underbrush of our unspoken assertions. Just as colonial mentalities see nature as only a beast to be harnessed, and a careerist student sees each course mostly as a means to an end, we want to be aware of why we are here in the now in our studies, lest other momentary priorities displace the moments that our big picture requires to achieve fruition. Sometimes writing a journal can help us to feel those hidden expectations that are barely conscious but nevertheless gnaw at our souls and quiver in the margins of our being. When we write we are “reawakening or revealing the present past in its truth” (Derrida, 214).
Only when we become aware of the barriers we erect to a broadening of our expansive potential do we realize how to get where we’re going. Writing, that great process by which we ennoble our learning through active participation and acute representation, comes to be a grand act where we broaden our essential selves whilst accumulating course credit. Credit in the cosmic sense is thus added to credit on the mere pagination of a transcript.
So how do we know how much we’ve grown at AU? One method of gauging our progress is to look back at our past essays. Writing rewires ourselves, after all, and this isn’t limited to the keeping of journals (although spring is a great time to sit outside and just record thoughts and observations such as the passing of two redwing blackbirds in hot pursuit of a sultry female). The emergence of nature in Spring reminds us of the creativity, not to mention essential animality, of our selves. Writing can even be said to provide us with a mirror to our ever-evolving soul.
For his part Derrida suggests that we ought to think of “writing as ‘breaching’ in the psychical repetition of this previously neurological notion” of thought (Derrida, 214). The outcome of our thinking and learning cannot be reduced to synaptic charges that fire sparks but do not embody the essential poetry of our being. Rather, our writing is a process, “opening up its own space, effraction, breaking of a path against resistances, rupture and irruption becoming a route, violent inscription of a form, tracking of a difference in a nature of a matter which are conceivable as such only in their opposition to writing. The route is opened in nature or matter, forest or wood, and in it acquires a reversibility of time and space. We should have to study together, genetically and structurally, the history of the road and the history of writing” (Derrida, 214). Writing thus becomes what it is not, or has not been previously, in the sense of our memories of school days of yore.
Inscribing our brains out onto paper or screen is no mere rote process of regurgitating what we learn, like the lined limits of the paper forcing us into its narrow strictures just as cultural norms dictate a limited realm of acceptable words, gesture, or actions in a given situation. Writing for Derrida becomes an act of participatory liberation whereby our writing allows us to surpass our past selves. Although the act of writing only vaguely transcribes what’s been appearing in our minds during a given moment of our development, to see our words on the page is, nevertheless, to render ourselves anew. Here lies the essential link between forging forward—“spring”ing as it were—and remembering or “fall”ing backward so as to recall from where we arose. Memory and recall in writing unite to become catalysts for the creation of our best self moving forward.
To think spring as more than another season is to partake of an erasure of seasons and the limitations of managed demarcations. Whatever the date on the calendar, our unique personal experience of life is ours alone. Life transcends. Memories and the future are thus linked in their essential nature as landscapes of potential, rather than avenues of limited options. Think of Robert Plant’s famous lyric from “Stairway to Heaven”: “there’s two roads you can go by/but in the long run/there’s still time to change the road you’re on”. Only two roads, perhaps only past and future? Even if binary logic stretched to an Autobahn-esque width, there would still be more limit than leeway to the highways of the mind. Growth is our common denominator and it’s precisely that growth potential we realize here at AU.
If we think of life as a grand prairie meadow stretching all the way to the ends of the earth then we see our past choices and future options not as a series of ‘or’s’ but indeed as a series of ‘ands’. Life’s basically a circle, just as are the seasons and the planet. And at AU we come full circle, returning to school, because we are lifelong learners. Life becomes a landscape of unlimited potential and we are the nerve running through this living realm. So let’s do spring as a verb!