Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Okay, I've given it another shot.
I'm not planning to stop, but when I step back and look at what I've written over the last couple of days, what do I see?
- I ruminated about a weird Holocaust undertone to a bunch of Dreamworks kids movies. This is basically coctail party conversation, isn't it?
- I played a meme game. No net value added to the universe. Maybe I got through the exercise without sounding awfully pretensious, but I doubt it.
- I staked out the daring and controversial position that we should not ignore Latin America! No, definitely not - we should stay engaged! Surely I've changed the world by writing that.
- I rambled on the subject of religion and science without especially advancing anybody's argument in any direction or even really clarifying anything for myself.
One of my readers comments that my piece on Morales' election proves only the depths of my ignorance about Latin America. I can only concur. You know, when I was an undergraduate, I intended to write my thesis on a topic in early colonial Latin America (16th century). I was to work with a professor whose area was early modern Spain, which was close enough, but then he left to go to another school who would actually offer him tenure. So I wound up working with a graduate student, and settled eventually on a topic: the taqui oncoy rebellion in 16th century colonial Peru. I was a couple of months into my researches, starting to work on a first draft of a paper for my seminar which, in the next semester, I would expand into my thesis, when I came across an article in Spanish claiming basically the following: everybody who studies the taqui oncoy is wrong. The key to understanding the rebellion is to realize that oncoy is an Aymara (I think - it's been about 15 years) word for the constellation of the Pleiades. The rebellion was actually triggered by, and its most salient features (bizarre dancing, speaking in tongues, etc.) related to astrological events around the Pleiades at the time. Now, I read this article, and one thing became clear. I did not have the foggiest idea whether the author was right or wrong. And I did not have the foggiest idea how to determine whether the author was right or wrong. And my opinion on whether the author was right or wrong was pretty darned important to my thesis. I did not know anything about pre-Inca Andean astrology, and I was not going to learn enough about it in the time available. My grad student advisor didn't know anything about pre-Inca Andean astrology either, so we radically downscaled the scope of the paper, from an attempt to actually explain the rebellion to a historiographical piece on the difficulties of using Inquisition testimony and other Spanish records to get a real picture of what was going on. This was very unsatisfying, and not thesis material, so I switched topics, and advisors, and wound up writing about ancient Israelite stuff. And I also wound up dropping the idea of academia as a career.
What's my point? There is so much world out there that I am interested in. Writing this blog has, indeed, helped me become a better thinker, and a better writer. But that doesn't mean I know what I'm talking about. I'm making it up as I go along like the rest of the bloggers - heck, like most of the rest of the writers. How can I feel good about that, either as a way to spend my time or in terms of what good I'm doing for my poor deluded readership, such as it is?
Well, I'm going to bed. See how things seem in the morning.