05 June 2005

Back, and Ready to Blog

I must apologize to readers of Dissoi Blogoi for not posting during the May Week Seminar.

A large part of the explanation of why I was unable to post last week, is why I am able to post now, the first morning I'm home. It's 5:30 a.m. stateside (the time I usually wake up, at the latest); everyone I'm interested in spending time with is asleep; and I have a computer ready to hand, with a wireless internet connection. In Cambridge, I never really adjusted to the different time zone, and would usually only just have enough time in the morning before the 10:30 seminars began; and when I did have some free time, in the evenings, there were lots of people I was interested in spending time with, still very much awake; and in any case, there weren't then computers on the internet readily available, because those were in the Classics library, which closed soon after the last session of the day ended.

Last time I was in Cambridge I spent many evenings hanging out at CB 1 until closing, at midnight. But that was too far away (and also CB 2), because I never did hire a bike. Mike's Bikes was out of bicycles when I stopped in there, and I decided to try to do without one--and indeed nearly everything one could want (library, restaurants, pub, newsagent) was just around the corner from my room in Darwin.

But something else to be taken into account, and very real, I believe, was the way in which being in England effected a kind of adunamia of the blogging impulse, which perhaps, in contrast, comes about most readily and vigorously in melancholic types (as perhaps I am), while in the United States. The British still are marked by an admirable circumspection and discretion, which, I found, made blogging appear from the start something of a suspicious enterprise. A conversation I had more than once about blogs began, "Oh, a blog--Is that where something happens to you and you immediately and foolishly write it up so that the whole world can read it? ...Saying that your employer is a nasty so-and-so, and things of that sort of thing?"

It is true that I, in contrast, would have only good things to say about those around me. But even then, that would be awkward. I didn't want to say "N. spoke today, in my view one of the most erudite men in the world" (which is true of N.), but then have to associate in friendship with N. the next day. Or what might be a natural expression of admiration and gratitude after the fact, would seem inappropriate during the seminar. (Conversation overheard at a gathering outside the Seminar: "So where would you think is the best place to study ancient philosophy now?" "Here, obviously. And then, a long, long way below, in second place, ..." --this because of the esteem which I am not alone in having for the Cambridge ancient philosophy commmunity.)

And then too, the Seminar was simply exhuasting. I don't mean merely that I had to use all extra time in preparing for my own presentation on Wednesday morning. I mean also, as others there expressed to me also, that participation in the May Week Seminar leaves little extra time or mental energy. A two-hour morning session; another two-hour afternoon session (but these are more like 2 1/2 hour sessions, because always the discussion carries over to little gatherings afterwards, outside the seminar room); then studying the text for the sessions; and then time spent with colleagues and hosts over lunch or dinner. The sessions themselves are exhilirating, and demanding, because of the high standards that prevail, and the high caliber of the participants. One might say it would simply be good sense after all that to spend the evening drinking an ale or two with a colleague at the pub, rather than blogging on one's own.

And there's no reason that one cannot blog afterwards. I took fairly careful notes (except when I was thinking through an argument or point I wished to formulate). I hope to make something of a report of the sessions, some fuller and some less so, in the days that now follow.

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