Scholarship Versus Culture (or A Case For Dilettantes)

It has been said that “computers have done to communication what cars have done to roads.” Communication, as a phenomenon, gathers us by way of language—linguistic, musical, bodily, or any other form—for the sharing of ourselves with others, and others with us.

And as communication calls us, so too do the spaces upon, in, and through which we—strangers and friends—amble, breathe, see, hear, and in all ways seek and find: paths, boulevards, avenues, streets, roads, ways.

But, as communities arising from and within a culture, our aim—be it an imperative of evolutionary necessity or a collectivistic historical will—to become that for which we are destined (in whatever sense one might understand such a concept) is inevitably subsumed by an inversion of our original human unfolding and striving, a profanation of simply living with and for others. That way of being becomes increasingly covered over, generation after generation, until goals, having lost their genuineness, become jails.

The amateur, the dilettante, and all that is trivial, is now the bungler, the trifler, and all that is meaningless…

Scholarship, as a deep and methodological study of the fruits of culture for the purpose of serving culture (by aiding in the understanding of those works), has now become that which cuffs culture, staying the movements of lovers and the curious, by hermetically sealing away the great works as great mysteries. Or by denying them altogether.

Education, in heterodoxical concert with scholarship by way of a strange institutional syncopation, is now a commodity that is gift-granted by those who have it to those who need it and can suffer the weight of the rituals which impute it. And whether the soil of the soul—which originally (we can imagine) was fertilized by encounters with creative works—is truly cultivated in these thin times, is, of course, a matter of secondary importance to the cold drive to acquire professional training, or, in the very least, accreditation.

We might do well to be disappointed or even agitated by the thrust of scholarship and its relations to culture. And we might also do well to begin to move our cultivating encounters outside the bounds of educational conservatories and (back) into the expansive lands of convivial relations and community spaces… adjusting the role of scholarship so as to once again serve culture, and not culture scholarship.

Analysis and methodological study of great works (from whatever time and place and people), as well as life itself, will always occur, for that is what we do. For although “we are not really at home in our interpreted world,” some of us yet yearn to understand and authentically dwell.

To accept this—that all people stand in and upon culture as a ground, and that they are free to engage and eat and consider the produce that (should) surround their daily walks—is to believe that a personal discovery of, and meaningful relationship with, nature and art is necessary. Necessary in order to nourish every person’s authentic being and possible fecundity for the purpose of healthy spirits, exercising of gifts, spontaneity, play, creation, and all manner of physical and mental activities, which empower us—by way of a confident knowing, a humble ignorance, and a courageous enjoying—to mediate our lives in and through the world we find, the world we share, and the world we make for ourselves.



(Image above: “Use Stool,” assemblage from found objects, 2008)

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