I have just cancelled my Facebook account. I realize that in doing so I am giving up much that is good and distancing myself from friends who are very dear to me. But I can’t trust myself with it. I am retiring this year to become an emeritus professor, a bit like Lear when he steps down, prof in name only, and my teacher’s habit, to try to correct error and fix logic and point out new perspectives and unearth evidence and help people enjoy a book as a book, is exactly what social media doesn’t need at present.
Because everything is politicized now on social media. Even not entering the conflict is an aggressive act. In this nightmare year of plague and racism and fear and institutional folly and brutal violence by the lawless and the law alike, what is desired is simple recitation over and over of the creed of “this” side or “that.” Any concession to the valid points of one side or the other is seen as endorsement, triumphant putdown, conversion or betrayal. Any mild criticism of a view one otherwise endorses is heresy. Those who try to mediate–which was my intention in entering the fray–are the ones hated most as traitors by both sides. So I’m out.
This divestment is only part of a general metamorphosis–caterpillar to butterfly or butterfly to caterpillar? I’ve been slowly clearing out my institutional office and my home study, hundreds of books to go to libraries, fifty-three years of dusty knickknacks, five giant bins of papers, keeping perhaps 1/10 of my them for a generously-offered archive.
I feel, as the cliché goes, as if an elephant were lifting its feet from my back one by one, a liberation that also includes a rush of memories of students and colleagues, and love for my flawed but very decent and increasingly brilliant university.
And as I enter my dotage or sanyasihood I am trying to rejuvenate my first vocation, of poet, and shred away what religious folks call the burden of self. I see a kind of liberation that might be possible; not less care for others, but more cogent care. A way of being a night-light for people, or a place to rest on a journey, or a suggester of ways to put things that display their holiness within.