To teach well today a fascination with the esoteric is necessary because higher education should be a space in which students can disrobe the “known” to bare the unknown, to flirt with phobia and, of course, to touch the untouchable.  As a humanistic instructor, I take this as my first obligation: to be able to provide a safe space which is big enough to accommodate the esoteric things that my students (and I) want to explore.  By prompting students to connect learning to their personal histories I strive to show them how everything interesting is intimately allied to intellectual pursuit.  A primary interest of mine is to encourage students to be present bodies in their educational journeys.  Historically one of the most abstruse sites of query – not less because students have been encouraged to separate their minds from their bodies in academia, and particularly in the virtual classroom – the human body is the most esoteric subject for many students; as a result, it has proven an extremely effective educational platform for exploration in a variety of topics that I’ve taught, including: standardized testing in grade school, the role of sound in urban settings, the politics of growing up, photography’s influence on utopian philosophy, nineteenth-century “zombies” in post-colonial discourse, the role of doppelgangers in world fiction, and academic essay writing (to only name a few). Prompting students to reconsider themselves – as bodies with unique experiences and interests – in their favorite intellectual pursuits allows me to teach in the way that comes most naturally to me.  As a “humanistic” instructor I share my appetite for the thinking body by being in my body and inviting students to occupy their own. We each bring useful ways of reading and understanding texts to the table that foster critical thinking and creative approaches to writing in the academic genre. Valuing ourselves as academics puts people at the center of academia and continues to challenge the boundaries of education, the potential of the individual, and the possibilities for our future.  Although not every student embraces my ethos or my approach, I can say with certainty that most students leave my courses feeling as if they understand much more clearly how to merge their unique passions with their academic interests. Together, we create intellectual pleasure in the classroom. For me, pleasure has been the most esoteric thing about academia.  In my first years as a student, and then as an instructor, I struggled to find a way to “please” myself as an academic.  Pleasing the ego, pleasing my advisors, and pleasing the status quo were techniques which I was taught and learned well.  But I have always been an adventurous pupil and continued to crave the shrill sensation, the numbing private excitement, the loud throb of uncertainty that I always embraced. At first, there seemed to be a very small space for these feelings in academia. Today I understand that, for me, pleasure is the driving force of wisdom – and that academia has the capacity to hold and foster such desire.  I want my students to feel like university is a positive experience for their exploration: of self, of subject and, especially, of the esoteric that brings the two together.

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Being Seen during a Wellness Journey

I have not made a post for about a month in this diary but this has not been because I have been lazy or in a binge coma. Actually, I keep considering the function of such a diary for me, at this point in my journey. I ask myself: what is the function of me logging in my food every day and documenting my exercise.

On one hand, it is because these steps motivate me. I can see my progress, and I can see the data and interpret it. Tracking in these ways also give me visibility, as if I am being seen in some way, which in turn provides me a sense of validation.

On the other hand, these things are not really real. I do already feel internal motivation just from a desire to be well and to reach a higher level of consciousness. And visibility is a lie, a farce — no one really sees me or knows me, not really, and certainly not more than I see or know myself.

So, the function of documenting and being accountable to a plan continues to perplex me. After almost one year of logging in my food and exercise and nine weeks of keeping this wellness diary on my website, I am not sure that I have reaped the benefits for which I hoped.

Then again, I feel today as if I am at a better place; yet, I always feel that way. Every day is another encounter with the unknown, every day, another opportunity to be tested and to learn about myself and the world.

I am not sure what shape this diary will continue to take, but I do like to express my feelings and thoughts about wellness on my own journey.

There is an element of letting go, even of acceptance, that I wish to work toward in my wellness journey. That, I feel, is a piece that will help other more visible elements fall into place.

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