Saturday, May 10, 2014

Minutiae

For Alumni Day, faculty were invited to give brief presentations of our work - and by brief they meant one minute! A sort of variety show, the "New School Minute" was introduced last year to great acclaim. And no wonder. The variety of topics and styles of presentation is dazzling, and at a minute (or two or three...) there's few chances to get bored.

Of course there's also something absurd about asking for such brief presentations of research but that was the key to the pleasure of it all. Everyone's in the same situation... and it turns out to be rather fun to find something you could say in so few words and hear your colleagues doing the same. My sixty seconds of fame came between a professor from Design & Management on "Empathetic Creativity – Transforming Challenges to Opportunities" and one from the Mannes School of Music on "Does Music Matter?" I spoke, of course, on Job. If you exclude the opener (cheating a little, but at least I didn't restate the obvious absurdity of what was going on), I kept to the assigned time, too:


I’ve just published a book on interpretations of the book of Job which came out of a seminar at Eugene Lang. Here’s a taste: 

Most people know the Book of Job through a single line: “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” [1:21] or “He destroys the perfect with the wicked” [9:22] or “I will maintain mine own ways before him” [13:15]. My favorite: “Have pity upon me, o my friends; for the hand of God has touched me” [19:21].

The story of Job’s devastation and restoration is basically a one-liner, too. But most of the book isn’t about what happens. It’s a discussion among friends trying to get beyond the one-liners to make sense of what’s happened.

As you might have heard, it’s not the best discussion ever. People don’t listen. They get angry. They go all ad hominem on each other. God condemns Job’s friends - but he also has Job rehabilitate them. Job’s friendships are the first part of his life to be restored.

People often describe Job as “the book of God and man,” but in fact Job is never alone with his God. For the most painful and powerful questions we wrestle with, the challenge and comfort of human discussion is beyond price. If you have no friends near, read the Book of Job. It’s a discussion, and you can enter into it.


(OK, it was 1:15.) It's a quixotic assignment, and one you don't entirely want to succeed at. Can what you've worked on really be digested into such a little nub? On the other hand, it was great fun to be part of a kaleidoscope of such nubs. And who knows, someone might be intrigued enough by one of these nubs to follow up. Or to come study with us!

This is chalk drawing one of our students drew in the Welcome Center. The monument at far left is, of course, the new University Center!

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