A strange thought on dissertation writing and reincarnation

I am the rebirth of Proust
But I will be free of his will.

To understand that requires that you understand how one can be both the same and different from a personality in a previous birth; how one can be the product of past actions with which one identified, and yet retain the possibility of escaping the repetition of the same. It requires understanding how one can learn from mistakes. It requires understanding how Buddhist rebirth is imagined.

It is also an assertion of will: I will write more briefly.


6 thoughts on “A strange thought on dissertation writing and reincarnation

  1. White Spade says:

    I’m going to guess that a Buddhist did not write or speak your selected quotation.

    The real problem lies in “I will”. That tears it.

  2. Well, actually, I wrote the quotation, driven by a desperate sense that I was incapable of stopping writing – my dissertation chapters keep getting longer and longer, and including every possible item of related interest. That’s a mistake, obviously, but it’s one Proust turned to his advantage in In Search of Lost Time. Still, I refuse to be dominated by tendencies (we could even call them samkhara) from past lives.

  3. White Spade says:

    Comment 1: When you say you “refuse to be dominated by tendencies”, well, there’s that old WILL again. Tell me, how do we will the end of willing?

    Comment 2: I read you largely for the non-Buddhist-related thoughts you post. I first started pestering you because I felt your project as you declared it was too narrow for the obvious breadth of insight and intellectual effort your posts reveal.

    So, when you say that “obviously” it is a mistake not to forceably limit the scope of your research and writing, it leaves me wanting to ask a genuine academic (like you) about old school intellectuals and the increasingly absurd division of specialization in the “academy”. Can we look forward to any Julian Jayneses or Murray Bookchins or Norman O. Browns or even Henry Girouxs in this time?

  4. Regarding your first comment, I’m ‘buddhish,’ I suppose, rather than Buddhist, and I remain deeply unconvinced that we should will the end of willing. I am not a voluntarist, but think that the mechanical models most of voluntarism’s enemies rely on are equally inadequate. Will has a role to play, for good and ill.

    Thanks for comment number two. See today’s ‘Vox Bloguli’ as a sort of response.

    The ‘obviously’ in the final bit is a reference, I suppose, to two things: it is ‘obviously’ a poor idea if I want to ‘finish’ the ‘dissertation,’ or ‘work’ in the ‘academy.’ But you are correct – vicious limitations may promote a career, but are not necessarily engines of progress.

    My sense is that we will always have inspired writers, thinkers, and teachers, and most of these have no interest or space in the academy, with ‘genuine academics’ like those whom I try so hard to join. Most of them will come from without, and academics usually crib their best inspirations from those without the academy.

  5. White Spade says:

    Thanks for your reply.

    One thing, though, as I may not have written clearly.

    My question, “How do we will the end of willing?”, was posted to suggest the inherent paradox in this. What I see is that the active attempt (willing) to end (control) things as they are only brings about more confusion and violence. I am greedy, but I should not be greedy, so I will it not so. “I will not be greedy.”

    Or all the unfortunate humans out there who desperately wanted to believe that something called “non-violence” actually exists and can be found given enough psychological time deferments, thus putting the cart perilously before the horse, e.g., “I’ll be non-violent, rather than looking at myself as violence.”

    Fair enough, though. You see a place for the will in the world (or as the world…?) I only wanted to clarify my post. Thanks for your time.

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