The scholarly lion

scholar lion statue

This is the scholarly lion at columbia university. It cannot roar. It can’t charge. It can’t even move. It is only a statue.

One wonders, frankly, what kind of comment on scholarship is implicit in this puzzling object, with its ruffled main, its gnarled lips, its green face the color of sea-beaten algae or refrigerated mold or weathered bronze, its thick lips, its empty eyes, its stiffened limbs. Are scholars meant to be like lions, brave and heroic, ready to seize the truth in their jaws, to roar at lies, to stand guard before virtue and prestige? Or are scholars here represented as statues, statues of something that might once have been brave when it was alive and lithe, but that now is halted, appropriated and bronzed?

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The fragility of the knowledge society

I don’t really believe that we live in a “knowledge society.”

Technocrats say we live in a knowledge society. Educators and politicians sometimes say we live in a knowledge society. Sometimes they’re trying to say: a world where formal knowledge from the education and research sector is crucial to social success, economic production, and the like. OK, education is a means of getting jobs, and a marker of social distinction. Scientific research is sometimes very politically involved (paradigmatically, the Manhattan Project). None of that seems to add up to a social order where “knowledge” is the foremost concern, mightiest tool and dominant value.

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Universities and graveyards

UConn Panorama and Graveyard

it’s summer in this picture. i was on top of a hill when i took this. i was 18. just before i left for college. the year 2000.

the rows of graves run down the hill to the high brick buildings. the silver dome of the basketball stadium rises like a silly saucer. the trees were the dark green of summer. it was probably hot out.

it’s a little eerie that the view of the university leads down out of a hill of graves. this is the university of connecticut; they have the same thing at cornell university too. a campus graveyard. just a place for the bodies to go when they’re done working, i guess. a convenience, just like the campus coffeeshop. why leave campus when all the amenities are close at hand?

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