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ten years are nothing…

14 February 2011
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Albritton Tower by sarowen on Flickr

There is no measuring by time there, a year there has no meaning, and ten years are nothing. To be an artist means: not to reckon and count; to ripen like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of Spring without fear lest no Summer might come after. It does come. But it comes only to the patient ones, who are there as if eternity lay in front of them, so unconcernedly still and far. I am learning it daily, learning it through pains to which I am grateful: patience is all!

In making my way through Joe Ura‘s list of books recommended to college students (I’m only a decade and a half behind), I’m now reading Letters to a Young Poet, from which the above is excerpted. It is probably insulting to say the passage made me think of tenure and the accomplishments expected of early scholars before being granted. Nevertheless, it did. I always stop and say that my work right now is largely empirical, reporting on things we don’t know much about. In the present time, I am not trying to form inferences about the world in general from my observations in small corners of the world. Rather, I think I would need to have years and years of observation (and perhaps some stillness as Rilke calls it) before I could make convincing arguments about the nature of the world.

I’m also reminded of when I was in a graduate seminar on game theory and Michael Chwe shared his idea that graduate school was supposed to be like an artist commune, where senior artists give advice, guidance and training to budding talent, but that young artists would be expected to create their own art. I guess all of this is to ask whether we can put a deadline on good work, and if five years is sufficient.

***UPDATE: here is a link to Joe Ura’s book list for college freshmen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 14 February 2011 1:17 pm

    Letters to a Young Poet is the only book on that list which I haven’t read. I guess I need to go back to high school.

    It does remind me of the day I graduated with my BA in Literature. When I walked up to get the stage, my dean handed me a tube of paper. Rather than just a fake diploma, new graduates were handed a ‘Guild List’, which was a list of 100 books all literature students should read. I’d read 15 of them at that point. By now, I’ve read 62.

    The problem with books is that people keep writing them. Right now someone is writing a book which will be an important work in the future, and, even worse, our generation might cast it aside as garbage and never realize it’s worth until its gone. Until then, Twilight remains a bestseller.

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