This second Chaparral article has been hard to put together. Because I am not quite the avid writer or Title V expert, I just try to do my best to share little flashes of insight that contextualize our work as professors. So, I jot down ideas that pop into my mind on daily walks and then I scan and recombine these ideas later—always keeping in mind that I am writing an article that, on one hand, must engage very bright people who I respect, and, on the other, is in a little journal named after dry shrubbery.
For this entry, yes... Again, I am trying to offer a message of hope to my colleagues—as we face a presidential election that may result in the permanent elimination of checks against executive power, an out of control viral pandemic as fall and winter approach, an act of war against the home country of our students, the complete virtualization of our workplace—and, what else, the state budget collapse? I am sure I forgot something.
After staring blankly at the screen for hours, I decided the most uplifting thing would be to share topics I considered covering for this article but stymied me as I wrote. Finding humor amid darkness and uncertainty is hopeful enough.
I actually first considered writing this article about pop songs that had the word “Zoom” in them, like “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” (Aretha/George), Wreckx-N-Effects famous “Rump Shaker” (“…all I wanna do is zooma-zoom-zoom-zoom and a … well, you know), and the “Zoom Zoom Zoom” Mazda jingle. I couldn’t get a whole article out of it—I am no pop musicologist.
For a while, I was certain I would begin this article with these words, which proved impossible to follow up: “When I find myself counting down the days, something has gone wrong. I have been counting down the days till the election, the end of the pandemic, and sometimes I’m counting down the years until I retire.” Those words sat at the top of this page for about 4 days! I planned to complain about excessive state-mandated reporting requirements but decided that it’s more fun to do that in person or over Zoom—or, now that I’m Senate President, write to the Chancellor about it.
I hope it felt like a moment of clarity and/or rest, and that you find many such moments in the coming days and months."
I considered writing about my paranoid relationship with etymology. Recently, I discovered that the word “work” is historically related with the work “wreak”, as printed in the Guardian here: “The English ‘work’ has an Indo-European stem werg-, via Greek ergon, meaning deed or action without punitive connotations; and Latin urgere, to press, bear down upon or compel. It is cognate with Gothic wrikan, to persecute, and Old English wrecan. Thus, in the word ‘work’, violence is latent, and it appears in the form of wreak, when we speak of wreaking havoc or vengeance.” I was also surprised to learn that the word “teach” is related to “token”, as explained here. I found both etymological connections disturbing, with respect to the imagined violence of “wreaking” education upon our students set against the utter transactability of the “token”. A promisingly gloomy topic, but it turns out that’s just worth a paragraph here, not a full Chaparral article.
I have a few more topics I thought about, but I’ll save them for another time and close with this one, more funny/weird than funny/haha: the awkwardness of ending a group Zoom meeting. You know, the drama of clicking "end meeting for all"—and how someone always tries to say something important to the group and it gets clipped just as attendees are popping offscreen, drowning back into their home offices, kitchens, and bedrooms. It’s nothing like walking away from each other in a hallway or classroom. As mundane as Zoom is, I see the awkward session end as a photographic punctum of our social moment, in which we are reminded of a kind of taking-leave that has itself departed from our lives as educators. It’s an easy way out of this article, as I’d prefer to leave you with one of the more delicate rather than vast aches and pains of this incomparable year.
If you read this, I hope it felt like a moment of clarity and/or rest, and that you find many such moments in the coming days and months. We do not know what the future holds, but there is no other option but to stay steady and believe that things will get better. I wish you the best—and I look forward to touching base with you once again after this fateful early to mid-November.