It’s hard starting a new book. Especially after you’ve retired from your day job. On September 30, I had no idea I was going to write a book. This is October 5. Funny, that’s just how the first book started: On the Final Ultimate Coming of Knowledge. Just a tad pretentious? Take a look at the acronym. Susan and I have been pretty clear about what we were up to from the beginning.
It was Carol who worked on that first book with me. Susan was already off at Berkeley by then, pursuing her doctorate in sociology. But she had pretty much shared all the ideas that went into The Book(s), as we spilled into the halls of academe, outside my office. Had we already painted the office barn red? Got in trouble for that, we did. Annie (Anne Peters) had just put up white curtains; they made her take them down, I think; but there was lots of hullabaloo about it. I love barn red, and we needed an office that looked like the professional research lab we meant to set up to learn and teach in.
Granted, my office as a new assistant professor wasn’t nearly big enough, but we faked it pretty well with designer lamps (cheap version) and paintings, and a newsletter strewn graciously about, with my hand-drawn centerfold of a very proper stat professor, with a stat book (the one he wrote, probably) in place of the traditional fig leaf. They disappeared like hotcakes, the newsletters, that is. Especially after the campus printing office censored the one with a centerfold of a professor at Brown, who was part of our research crowd from meetings. We marched outside that office, replete with signs, denouncing Stalag 13 tactics. Yes, it was back in the days of Hogan’s Heroes and the Second Feminist Movement.
But I mustn’t get lost in all these reminiscences. We had a lot of fun. We still do. Many of our graduates have run into each other, all over the world, and still do. I’m older now and more mature. I’d never engage in such wacky projects as we did then. Except, of course, turning my posts this September into stories to accompany our teaching website (restructured). We’re hoping that I’ll get so used to the new standards in web design that by November I can join with NaNoWriMo to turn out a rough first edition of a modern version of Aucassin and Nicolette, a 12th Century romance novel, with hilarious comic overtones. We want it to accompany our website, Dear Habermas, as we focus on building relationships in our local and digital communities that might bring us back to adult negotiations in our politics, social and economic policies, and just plain civil communication again.
Somewhere; I’m not sure where; I remember saying that jeanniespace is the start of recounting what has turned into my theory of everything. Einstein never found his. String theory might find an answer for the scientific world. But mine is not a theory of how sub-atomic physics and astrophysics can get along together. My Theory of Everything is about how we as humans might ultimately find a way to get along together (which is why our site is called Dear Habermas). I guess that “On the Final Ultimate Coming of Knowledge” pretty much says how I’ve been looking for that theory for well over thirty-five years. It’s important. I gotta find it.
I don’t think I can blame that early flippant title on Carol Telesky, or Sandy and Vincent Garcia, or Susan Takata, or J.B. Roberts, or Lois Lee, or any of all those wonderful students I started out with, and whose work with me led to The Book. The department selected it as the text for all our introductory classes in Sociology, the year after the summer in which I wrote it. And the American Sociology Association published it, when Hans Mauksch was director. But it’s been hard as Hades to include it in a resume. Often, I’ve wished I’d called it “The Book.” But it was the early 70s then, and women were fighting for the right to break the glass ceiling. Guess I confused breaking through it with smashing it all over the place. Negotiation wasn’t my strong suit; no more than it’s Boehnor’s. But today, I’m glad I named it Oh, F8#2. Glad for me, because it shows how much I saw through what was wrong with education. Saw it then. Kept trying to fix it through my whole career, and now am trying to learn and share that learning with others who might be able to smash the Hades out of that glass ceiling we keep running into again and again.
Sure some women have broken through. But few have been able to climb the mountain to a space where they can be safe and work contentedly at what really matters to them and to us all, to the world, and maybe even to the universe. Women are no longer alone. Prejudice has had to keep poking around to build the glass enclosure against all those who would somehow be “different,” guaranteeing that they would have to be clever enough to create their own space in which to survive. There is always the problem of inherited privilege which ultimately leads little room for letting achievement rise to the top. It’s really about room at the top. But I’d rather think of it as space to be who we are and do what we must.
I didn’t name The Book until I had finished writing it. By then, I had learned a lot. That learning culminated in my drawing a cartoon, the last frame of which said, “Oh, I get it. You don’t want to make it any better.” That was the Final Ultimate Coming of Knowledge. That cartoon was the last page of my official report to the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, which had funded that whacky little group of students spilling into the hallways of academe.
I must have that cartoon somewhere. If I find it, I promise I’ll see that it becomes part of our history. That, together with the work that Susan and I have continued over the last couple of decades, speaks truth to the arrogance of an academy that often chose not to hear, whether it’s the academy or the government, or those who have the most guns and the most money to get what THEY want.
I don’t mean to sound cynical. I created my space and had a great time doing it. But can we really afford to lose so many minds and souls that want nothing more than to create a space in which they, too, can thrive? That’s what Susan and I are about.
love and peace,
Jeanne the Red Jay