When Thought Becomes Spectacle

In the practice of creative instruction – a practice, I might add, that glaringly evinces its own oxymoronic futility – there is common injunction: do not write/film/illustrate/compose/create anything about the “creative process” itself. In most cases, this is because such a “creation” would avow, without ambiguity, the frailty or non-existence of your imagination; writing about writing, a sage will surely tell you, is but a refuge for shriveled-up hacks who have run out of ideas or, for some unidentifiable reason, have been running along – blindly, clumsily – without ideas for some time. There is some truth to this claim. If you consider nothing other than pen and paper, then, out of necessity, you will write about that: the rich, sticky smell of the ink, the depthless white paper below you, the momentum and contortions of a scribbling hand. However, while I concede that “creating-about-creation” syndrome usually signifies debilitation or deterioration, there is something uniquely spectacular (worthy of spectacle, that is) about the activity of the mind, especially minds bred here at Pomona.

In part, this may explain why so many “creators,” artists, and intellectuals are eager to express their contemplative efforts, however fruitless they may be. They do not see cogitation as a stationary or inert phenomenon, they see it as an explosive, gut-turning, eye-widening, and, at times, earth-rending action.  By and large, the same goes for Pomona students. To be honest, on occasion, we do feel shackled to our library carrels, grinding away at a last-minute research paper, haphazardly citing Foucauldian theory while missing its import, or churning out a problem set the day before a cramming-won’t-work-for-this-one midterm. Yet, most of the time, this is not the case. Most of the time, there is a feverishness, an exuberance to our studies. Most of the time, we do not feel chained to our desks. The desk, rather, serves as kindling for our white-hot reveries – fortunately, the flames of our creativity do not actually reduce our dorm rooms to ashes; this would be a different sort of spectacle, one better suited for the cinema.

Put simply, then, Pomona-esque thought – to reuse an adjective of my own invention – is a kind of transportation. It liberates; it pushes. It tosses and turns, whips and elevates. It demolishes the traditional misconception of academic occupation, one that illustrates the scholar, budding or already-bloomed, as a hollow-eyed, slack-shouldered prisoner who unwittingly lays and re-lays the bricks of his own cell. As I pore through page-after-page of Georges Bataille, for instance, I am not seated rigidly with my nose pressed to a spine; rather, I am moving, leaving myself, entering and re-entering my head and digging into dark recesses that were, moments before, unknowable to me. I am unearthing more and more aspects of myself through study, and there is an irrepressible excitement to this – an excitement, moreover, that the community shares and nourishes, an excitement that, while not readily accessible to the naked eye, makes for quite the spectacle.