what’s in a name? or, coffee, contemplation and the meaning of this blog
i am sat in one of my favourite places, a coffee shop where care, attention, and respect for the beverage are paramount. this sounds ‘up your own arse’ or pretentious, but it really isn’t. i have recently read a lovely piece by the minimalists, actually by joshua fields millburn, about the relationship between care, attention, single-minded attention, and the complex nature of simplicity. there is chatter around me (some of it annoying), music (perhaps a little too loud, for the staff rather than the customers). i am here for two things – great coffee, and to decide on a title for this blog. in front of me is my journal. i take care with my journaling. it is a central part of my daily happenings. it is leather bound, and i write with a fountain pen. i hope that the care i take with the tools of my writing feed into and reflect the care of my reflections. what is in a name? that is the central issue confronting me. the feel of this place, i hope, will help me attend to the purpose of this blog. that is what i hope the name will convey. i am writing it for myself, a record of my reflections on the art of teaching in higher education, on teaching AS service, on the struggle for authenticity. but i know that these are issues that resonate with many others. so, i am writing this with a certain amount of self consciousness, a knowing that others might (hopefully will, what kind of ego is attached to this?) read it also, might reflect on my words, my sentiments, may even respond. i don’t want to go for ‘authority’. this is not about expressing an authoritative voice. indeed, it is against this urge for authoritative voice in academia that i am partly against. we seek more and more authority by carving out smaller and smaller niches of knowledge. we speak to fewer and fewer people. we take public money but then pretend that publishing articles that few people will ever see is meeting our public obligations for dissemination of knowledge. what folly. what aggrandisement. so, i hope a blog can be one way of engaging with wider audiences, wide publics. back to the page in front of me. back to the absence of pen marks on the paper.
ok, what have we?
well, i know that what i want to do is:
– i want to think about teaching and scholarship AS SERVICE in a Buddhist sense
– write a blog dedicated to ‘contemplative inquiry’ – a minimalist, Zen-like style
– reclaim my mornings, reclaim my meditation practice, of which the blog will be part (some of the reflections might take place in the morning and be written later)
that’s the inspiration. what about a title?
– well, yes, inquiry, and me as the inquirer. that makes some sense. but it makes it sound ‘academic’. i don’t want it to be academic. serious, yes, but not ‘authoritative’.
– contemplative? what is the purpose of this term in the blog’s name?
– i think i want to signal the orientation of my thoughts, that i am coming from a place of contemplative thought.
– but this doesn’t quite capture my feeling about the blog, my intuitive sense of what it is about for me. but it is about teaching, about teaching and learning, about pedagogy. those things that are central to my identity as an academic but which are not the means of academic adulation.
THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON
– where did that come from?
– no. diverts from my wish to attend to teaching as service, teaching for wisdom, but a catchy title all the same.
THE WISE TEACHER
– no. i don’t want to suggest that ‘i’ am the ‘wise teacher’. doubt and not-knowing are the base for all good worthwhile knowledge. the ‘i’, the ego, the ‘small mind’ all get in the way.
– maybe. this foregrounds an openness, revelatory feel. it is important to be made vulnerable in an important sense. not the ego-filled vulnerability of academic publishing writing.
CONFESSIONS OF A THOUGHTFUL TEACHER
– nearly there. but thought?
CONFESSIONS OF A WORRIED TEACHER
– much closer to the intuitive feel. this would allow me to link it to my proposed study on mental health and academic life. i like this.