A PROFESSOR OF PRACTICALITY...
A RETIRING 'PROFESSOR OF PRACTICALITY' AT ONE OF THE MANY VOCATIONAL ACADEMIES IN AMERICA
DEVOTED ENTIRELY TO THE TEACHING OF PURELY PRACTICAL THINGS
NONETHELESS, IN THE COURSE OF HIS FINAL LECTURE BEFORE HIS SOMEWHAT ASTONISHED STUDENTS,
SPEAKS OUT IN FAVOR OF THOSE DECIDEDLY MORE THEORETICALLY-MINDED TYPES OF PEOPLE
WHO DO NOT AGREE THAT 'ACTIONS ALWAYS SPEAK
LOUDER THAN WORDS'
My dear students, please do not faint!--but
in closing this class & bringing to an end alas
--or perhaps unalas!--my long academic career here, I would like to point out that:
In a so-called "Practical" world in which "Actions" always really "Speak Louder Than Words,"
virtually every average, run-of-the-mill, conventionally restless nervous wreck
with a mildly problematic but otherwise really perfectly ordinary motor-tic
Which tends to render it difficult for him to simply sit still for even just ten minutes in a row
--For example, some shaky character afflicted by some low-grade, jittery mental condition
endemic to his make-up & closely akin to what medical experts call "The Fidgets,"
& which condition keeps him on his feet pacing & re-pacing the floor like some
helpless laboratory rat which has found itself attached to a treadmill--
May be mistaken by unthinking people for some kind of totally involved, thoroughly representative
contemporary "Man Of Action" &/or 21st century Cultural Hero;
While some seemingly disreputable, congenital
even when feeling exceptionally lively & unusually filled with vim & vigor--
Arises only occasionally & then in the main mostly just to get up & sit down again,
primarily to get a better perspective from which to contemplate his own navel
But who for all we know, may actually be busy thinking at warp speed
& solving some Really Great Riddle Of The Universe!--
May come to seem to most folks, like somebody at whom they should throw rocks!
And yet the "Practical Life"--as I myself
have come to realize only relatively recently--isn't really
that it's been cracked up to be!
For despite the thrust of academic studies
here at this, your own dear old Alma Mater-to-be,
good old "AVSFDCS"--our beloved "American Vocational School For Dedicated Cloud-Stompers"--
Where as we all know only all too well, the curriculum is strictly limited to things strictly practical,
& where for a long time please believe me I've worked like a dog at fever pitch & single-mindedly
(Just like you will too, at your own chosen careers, for most of the rest of your lives after graduation)
Is it not true that the Universe still remains full of a great many highly significant but still
largely unsolved Riddles?
--As full of them as the expression "Actions
Always Speak Louder Than Words"
suddenly seems to me at this late date in my teaching career
& even with me here at long last practically wallowing in tenure
Not only unintelligent but also quite ridiculously short-sighted; & besides that IMFAO full of shite!
--Please forgive me my dear students but as
a man who has always professed respected for education,
I suppose that I too, have continued to go on learning...
Just what those Great Riddles actually are
In this particular year
& at this penultimate moment in my long teaching career here
As I stand gazing fondly down at you from behind this podium in my long white beard
I must confess that I for one no longer have the faintest idea!
--& Even though, from all the unsmiling
& indeed even frowning faces I can see before me now,
I gather that you're somewhat astonished by what I've just said
(So that Mary Jane, our gifted undergraduate with Emphysema & whose term-paper
exalts "Industrial Nuts & Bolts" is alas beginning to turn fuchsia;
While John, our brilliant Graduate Student /the focus of /whose thesis is
"Recycling Feces," has unfortunately just passed out on the floor)
I must confess that my entire career here
as a "Professor Of Practicality"
Lecturing for year after year to generations of diligent, ever-so-ambitious, diligent, &
eager-beaver students such as you, on topics ranging from "How To Merchandise
Even The Very Air" to "How To Turn A Profit from Boiling Ceiling Wax"
Has really been far too concerned with things this world considers pragmatic
to permit me to study much less grasp
Abstractions such as the solving of "Great Riddles"--whatever those Great Riddles
may in fact actually be today!
--But what I do know for sure is that suddenly
for some strange reason,
I sometimes feel curiously happy
Just to think that somewhere out there--either here or there or/either far or near--
There's probably some type of determined intellectual reprobate,
harmless social deviate or other type of of obstinate, stubborn maverick
Someone as yet unknown & possibly looked
down upon by virtually everyone around him
Yet who--with regard to the identification of & possibly even the solving of those Great Riddles--
Is for the enlightenment of us all
Seriously working on the problem!
A Professor of Practicality, a poem about a retiring vocational school Professor who towards the end of his life begins to question the purposefulness of so-called "men of action" & who speaks out in favor of independent thinking & the value of disinterested research. Earlier version appeared in 1992 in Agni #36. Like many other Of-poems, this poem praises private values as opposed to more conventional, public beliefs, & it speaks out in a confrontational &. pro-active way which has something in common with political speeches & other public orations. (Poem also has something in common with certain opera arias, too). This Webversion, © 2005.
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