“Anthony”

What does it mean to put one’s name in quotes? I realize that people are not apt to do this, but on a lark I recently did so (I am quite impulsive), and having done so, it made me wonder what the significance of this action would be. The deal is, if one puts the word reality in quotes such a one means to indicate that perception is implicit in the use of the word reality, which is to circumscribe the scope of what the word refers to by drawing attention to the issue of consciousness and the distance between one’s conception of the world and the world as it is in and of itself. To place the word reality in quotes is kind of like an inside joke for the postmodernly enlightened, as if to say, “Sure, we’ll use this word, but we know better.”

So, if I put my name in quotes, am I saying something along these lines? If so, a vague image from my past comes to mind, an image of an at-risk student who, when I would call him or her out on some behavioral issue, would respond by saying, “You don’t know me!!” And who, if he or she had engaged the education I was trying to facilitate in his or her life, would have had the intellectual development to follow up such a statement by going to the board to write his or her name in quotes, at which point I would have responded by saying, “You may leave the temple,” because, clearly such a student would have had the cognitive skills necessary to successfully engage the world, such as it may be.

After saying all this, I guess my conclusion is that putting one’s name in quotes is to essentially say, “You don’t know me” Although, this gesture need not have the connotation of strident self-defensiveness that I too often saw among my at-risk students. It could merely be drawing attention to the irony that the consciousness which allows us to be self-reflectively aware of the other is also, in some measure, the source of alienation from the other. Perhaps this is not better than strident self-defensiveness, but at least it’s a little less in-your-face.

Oh, and just to clarify where I stand on the relationship between the world as we conceive it and the world as it is in and of itself, I am not a card carrying postmodernist, but rather something of  critical realist, which is to say that though we see the world, we see at a distance, kind of like looking through a dark glass. And, regarding that hypothetical kid and his or her leaving the temple, I would disagree with such a one’s epistemological convictions, but dang if I wouldn’t be impressed by his or her intellectual sophistication.

*******

“Hey babe, I love you… Well, that is… I love you through the mental representation I have of you in my mind, which to some degree may approximate the real you, but neither you nor I will ever know.”

5 Responses to ““Anthony””

  1. Roger Green  

    I can’t help but to think that many of us – OK, I – waver between wanting to be understood and trying to reveal as little about me as possible.

    A blog, BTW, is a great vehicle for that, because, while you can show this feeling or that factoid, much of you can remain hidden, if only by what one chooses NOT to reveal, for whatever reasons.

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – I absolutely agree. And yet, I am often struck by the fact that people often see things about us that we don’t see about ourselves, which raises the question, “Who’s got the real picture?”

    I think the whole thing about wanting to be understood and revealing as little as possible emerges from the desire to be in genuine communion, which requires some vulnerability, and the desire to be safe and protected, which requires some measure of invulnerability. Either that, or it requires the faith that if we risk vulnerability, regardless of what hurts or pains we may suffer, there is something or someone that will preserve us still. Of course, this is much easier said than lived.

  3. K.L.B.  

    Damn. “Sometimes, I think you think too much.” Yeah. That was said to me. Whether or not you take that for yourself is another matter. After all, it’s in quotation marks.

    Now, having expressed thus, I shall continue.

    “At risk.” What exactly does ~that~ mean? (Now, you must address the tidle.)

    What exactly are such folk “at risk” for, or of? Success?

    You and I both know that such misnomer identifies poverty-stricken kids whose parents are blue-collar, working class folk whose labor provides the food that you and yours put in your mouths.

    So, what is the “risk”?

    Hell yeah. I’m on the attack. I think this piece you’ve written is about as full of fece as a chicken or bull.

    Bear in mind, however, that does not mean that my remarks are made in anger – for they are not.

    You write of “vulnerability” and “education,” yet I suppose that you have no education that compares to the education that the working man. And I write that as an edumacated man myself. Yeah… you know, one college degree, two university degrees, and professional certifications and licenses out the damn wazoo. So… show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

    Now – what say you?

    I do not write that to demean education, for I support and encourage education. My point of contention is with your premise.

    I submit to you that some of the students whom you identify as “at risk” are likely neither “at risk,” nor “at anything.” They’re simply poverty stricken – which means, in an ethnocentric manner, that somebody thinks they’re worthless, or incapable of performing or achieving. And that, my dear friend, is utter bullshit.

    I may be right; I may be wrong. But nevertheless, I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. And I can damn sure take it on the chin, the shoulder, the derriere, and anywhere else its dished out.

    Let’s engage.

  4. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – Uhh, hmm, as you have at times pointed out, I at times take myself too seriously, but I think that in this instance you are taking me too seriously. This piece is just me playing around with an idea. Really, I have an inner jester or clown that has to get out every now and then, and yes, he is a bit odd and so perhaps there ain’t many that’s gonna get his vibe, but he is what he is.

    Regarding “at-risk” youth, or “at-risk” students, this term is a technical term used by the school at which I worked (as well as many educators throughout the state and nation) that was chartered for “at-risk” youth, meaning youth who were booted out of their mainstream schools due to behavior problems and/or poor academic performance and who were therefore at-risk of dropping out all together, but who ended up on our doorstep in the hopes of avoiding that fate. Some did and some didn’t.

    Regarding vulnerability, I will be transparent and acknowledge the possibility that my using the image of the student saying, “You don’t know me!!” could be driven by some underlying need to work out the trauma of being, over the period of a year, regularly addressed in such a manner, peppered of course with consistent smatterings of “Fuck you Mr. Velez” by various students who I was trying to teach. Yes, I understand that they had many reasons to be frustrated since they were failed by a system that is broken, and were often neglected by blue collar parents who had multiple jobs and, as a result, little presence in the household. And so, I get the root of their frustrations, but nonetheless, even with this understanding, there was a part of me, when I was in the midst of being the brunt of their frustrations, that said, “It sucks to be the whipping boy of their anger and frustration.” And so, you will have to excuse me if I find some consolation in using some of them “at-risk” youth to provide amusing anecdotes to support a point I am making in a tongue-and-cheek piece about epistemology.

    After responding like this, I can’t tell if I verbally turned the other cheek or not, but I can say that it certainly wasn’t my purpose in writing this piece to stir up a debate or get in a fight. I was merely trying to entertain. If I callously hit a nerve, I apologize, but honestly I think this is a sensibility issue, as in some people like Monty Python humor, and some people think it sucks.

    You don’t think I’m funny, I get it.

  5. K.L.B.  

    Know what the beauty of all this is?

    Communication.

    Let’s keep the lines open.

    If I were in your face, I’d squeeze you so tightly that you’d cry for mercy.

    Love you, bro!