Thursday, August 9, 2018

On Putting It Out There

Hindus put their gods and goddesses, their demons, and expressions of light and darkness on the outside so that they can take them inside. Vedic deity is unseen and moves invisibily. Hindus turn this around: they put it into form and beauty, that is, the same word in Sanskrit, "rupa." When you put yourself into form and beauty, that's Rajanaka. It doesn't matter if your particular outside-in is "Hindu." What matters is putting yourself "out there" you see more of yourself, to make a life of modest artistry. Your provenance and perspective are the keys to progress.

I've always been reluctant to talk about Rajanaka as such and instead just tell the stories, offer up our take, explain the material as thoroughly, honestly as possible. About 90% of Rajanaka is just telling the truth and for my part that's about having had immersion in the culture, languages, the critical and historical education required to do the work. Rajanaka is truly more method than content though it's easy to see the content as voluminous, encyclopedic, and never ending, because it truly is. Once we become comparativists and perennialists then the subject opens to far, far more than south Asian studies. Academia doesn't much approve of that latter agenda largely because it doesn't reward the specialty and so the "profession."

When you sat with Appa, you felt a grounding, that clear sense of commitment to _the work_, which he loved and which I loved when I was with him. He often "drifted" into other subjects---topics far afield from the particular text or story we might be working on. I never stopped him or tried. Now I realize how lucky I was, that he would compare across cultures and history very challenging material, that he would endlessly pursue our common humanity---sensitive to cultural difference but willing to take those risks and experiment with ideas and feelings.

I never felt this way in any other professional or educational setting. In other contexts of learning, like Harvard, one _never_ actually _loves_ the work, one _does_ the work and you _might_ survive. If you do love this kind of environment (and I know people who do), I listen like its French to me: I attend to about every fifth word. For me, well, I survived, I still survive and it's easy to keep up with their schtick, but what it takes to like it is beyond me. Forensics is a cold business, a cutthroat, self-absorbed, insular business and personally scholarship as such is just another kind of special neurotic obsession. It's neurosis with skills and self-importance. I try not to be angry about it but for my own regrets about choosing this _as_ a profession. Lord knows, I'm not capable of anything else. My own favored forms of neurosis are _way_ more fun than academics.

With Appa you felt his character, his warmth and deep commitments to justice, to humanism and humane being, his honesty and candor always coupled to his care and patience and indulgence of human travail. Really, I have no notion of supernatural saintliness---because I think of that as nothing but nonsense---but Appa gave you a pretty good idea of what saints could look like if they are real humans with real flaws, regrets, and shadows woven within a fabric of light. But here I go again talking about Rajanaka, and I'm doing that because I wonder---and I ask this with real honesty---if this _interests_ you? I mean I would be happy to tell more stories about the learning, about him, about how he woven his interests, curiosities, tastes, and feelings into a life, into a person.

I try not to make Rajanaka anything other than your thing. But here is my point: what you love to do, what you care about, even little things, if you have your heart in it and it speaks to your humanity, then share it. When you do, that's Rajanaka. I'm trying to do a bit of that on Instagram. Mostly just things I have right in front of me. (Look here if you like: @profdbrk) Having decided that being a Trump-Twitter-troll is not particularly edifying, I don't tweet back to the imbecile (though I confess it is occasionally fun). So I'm taking a few pictures everyday of stuff---old bike bits, camera stuff, junk, books, things with provenance, things I've kept that tell stories. Whatchu'got? Things we keep can tell us how we connect inside and with each other. Put out there, take it in. If no one else cares about it, that's okay too. Make yourself an offering.  And while you're at it, tell us about the things you care about and about remarkable people you've met: artists, makers, humanists, anyone you know that you think we might like to know.  That's Rajanaka.