Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Academy Of Babel

"Perhaps knowledge succeeds in engendering knowledge, ideas in transforming themselves and modifying one another (but how? - historians have not yet enlightened us on this point)."
Michel Foucault, The Order Of Things

"Someone, you or me, comes forward and says: I would like to learn to live finally.
Finally but why?
To learn to live: a strange watchword. [...] Will we ever know how to live and first 
of all what "to learn to live" means? And why finally?"
Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

A spectre haunts the Academy
I cling yet to a memory of his face. My teacher. My mentor. My guide to the learned mysteries and invented masteries of the Academy. Yet it is like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea; Each new discovery threatens to erase him. The infinite nature of the Academy makes a mockery of my capacity to learn, but I know that this fading face and I are bound by an ineffable logic. Without me, he will cease to be. As will I without him. 

My epistème, the Academy is the licensor of all that I know, and emancipator of all that I have forgotten. Such mocking forgetfulness, I am certain my master knew intimately, but he omitted to acquaint me with its ways. Wasn't I worthy of such initiation? Or have I forgotten it? My lifetime has been spent wandering the hexagonal classrooms that make up the Academy's mystical architecture. Now, in the twilight imposed by my waning sight, I am forced to stop in this darkened classroom, and reflect.

I am uncertain how I came to be in the Academy, whether I was born in it or brought to it. It seems that any answer I might give to that question would be tantamount to a myth of origins, and I am the least worthy subject for such a grand narrative. Far more worthy of the little time I have left is the story of the Academy itself, were it possible to tell it. The proliferation of such epics testifies to the value of the endeavour: They are to be found in many a hexagon, pored over by zealous disciples, transcribed by dutiful scholars, and glanced at with or without reverence by lost souls like myself.

Some surmise from such volumes that the Academy is infinite in space, and has neither beginning nor end in time. Others, from sources just as credible, infer that it was created and awaits its destruction. It is measurable, with enough determination and discipline. Those of the first persuasion compete feverishly for classrooms within which to trade new, ephemeral and disruptive ideas. Those who adhere to the latter dogma purge the Academy of heresies and with missionary zeal ensure their canonical texts make their way to every hexagon. To the Disruptors, the future of the Academy is a beautiful blank page, and the past a foreign country. To the Gideons, the future is an evil imminent, and only the lessons of golden ages past can prepare us for it.

A mystical architecture
Among the teachers and students of the Academy (where everyone is both a teacher and a student), the Wanderers outnumber the warrior philosophers of these eternal clans. Among them, some have formed alliances: to arbitrate truces, to sue for truth and reconciliation, to care for the casualties of the conflict, even to codify the rules of engagement. My master was a Wanderer. Long after the abrupt end of my apprenticeship, I too committed to the undecided life. With and without him, like most Wanderers, I have fought for the Gideons, stood up for the Disruptors, and aided and abated a myriad of mediations. Not all my efforts have been in vain.

In my senectitude, through classroom after classroom, I have felt a spectre haunting the Academy. Not the spectral architect, article of faith of the Gideons, nor the spectral whiteness of the Disruptors' unwritten futures, but the spectre of a secret, hidden in plain sight. Having but little of that sense left, I can barely grasp at its portent: Only now at the end of my wandering have my steps felt as the result of my own agency, and a great laughter has seized my breast.

Some believe that among all the hexagons, somewhere is to be found the hexagon, the first and last classroom, the alpha and the omega, in which is contained the source code of all the teachings of all the classrooms of the Academy. As I write these words in perceptibly growing darkness, I fancy that I have found it. It resembles a cave, and shadows dance upon its walls. My teacher is gone, and I know that I will never leave this classroom.

Rest, rest perturbed Spirit! Finally, I have learned to live.

The Academy is unlimited, and cyclical.


  1. Just wow. Please consider submitting this to the journal Qualitative Inquiry


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