30 August 2006

So. Why the name change?

The short answer is that there is in my view precious little point in a blog’s having a pretentious (if not downright pedantic) sounding Greek name, requiring citations to esoteric texts for purposes of explication.

“Philologous? What’s that all about, man?” someone asks, after, of course, you’ve told them how to pronounce it.

“Well, you see, it’s a Greek word used by the philosopher Zeno to describe students of his whom he characterized as ‘curious to learn things.’ ”

“Do you want people to actually read your blog and tell their friends?”

“Well, that would be nice. Yes.”

“So you give it a name that few of them will be able to pronounce.”

“Uh, yes. That’s it exactly. Rare and memorable, don’t you think?”

“Uh, no. Rare and forgettable. That’s what I think. If anything, they’ll call it ‘Snuffalupagus or something.’ ”

“Do you really think so?”

“Yeah. I really do.”

He was right. One of my loyal readers, does in fact refer to this blog as Snuffalupagus, which has at least one thing going for it: Snuffalupagus was my little girl’s favorite Sesame Street character.

I hit upon “Deviant Scholar” in this way: my little girl, who is twenty-one now, suggested the name. Her reasoning was, well, great—if I do say so myself. It went something like this:

“Well,” she said, “you’re a scholar. But you’re nothing like any of the scholars here. You just deviate from ‘the norm’ in so many ways. These guys don’t listen to your loud heavy metal music. They definitely are not jeans-and-t-shirt guys. They are most certainly not up on culture, especially youth culture. They do not share your interest in communicating the fruits of scholarship with ordinary, everyday people. They only want to communicate with other scholars. You’re a scholarly deviant!”

I might add that I am not yet employed as a scholar, either. For one thing, I do not yet possess the terminal degree. And I have a problem with that whole specialization thing, and with being considered an ‘expert.’ I’m a card-carrying, charter member of Gen-X. Most of us aren’t into experts, except perhaps in the hard sciences, where expertise is objectively demonstrable and where theses and dissertations don’t have titles like “Homo-eroticism in The Beowolf”, “Prophets and Holy Men: The absence of homophobia in Aztlan”, “The Latent Marxism of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Note: those are not real titles. But they're pretty close to titles I have really seen!)

Deviant Scholar. That suits me just fine.

Thanks, kiddo. I knew I could count on you.

UPDATE: I have noticed that a lot of bloggers, if they have something other than their profile, have a posting called “About Me.” I’ve also noticed that in such a post they include such details as what their education is, where they teach, what books they’ve written. You know, like Glenn Reynolds. Well, I haven’t written any books but I have been writing a novel; I’ve also been researching and outlining two books. I drafted a few theological articles which I thought about submitting to Westminster Theological Journal, but haven’t had the guts yet. So, nothing published yet. And I don’t teach anywhere.

But it has occurred to me that I might say more about myself here than perhaps I can fit in my Blogger Profile. In my profile, I say that I studied english, history and philosophy as an undergrad. I once read a book written by a man who was described on the book’s jacket as being a “life long student of the humanities, having studied at” this or that educational institution. One of my friends read the jacket and quipped, “Yeah, I’ve studied at the University Texas. So what?” What my friend meant was that he was briefly a student at UT. So it may look like I’m trying to say more about myself than is warranted by the facts.

The reason I put it that way is to devalue my education a bit, to avoid any hint of a claim to be an expert by virtue of education. This is also the reason I don’t specify much about my graduate level education. If judgments are to be made about me or the content of my postings, then I prefer those judgments to be in response to the quality of my thought, my handling of the facts, my use of logic, my willingness to stand corrected.

Something I think needs clarified is the use of the term “scholar”. Typically these days the word is used to refer to one who is a member of academia, a university professor. That is not me – yet. I am no more a scholar, in that sense of the word, thanEd Morrissey is a ship’s captain. I am graduate level educated but, as I mention above, I am not employed as a scholar. To get to that point, I need either one more master’s level degree, beyond the one I presently possess, or a Ph.D.

See, that’s a problem. The higher one goes in degree programs the more specialized must be one’s area of study. Problem for me: I’m interested in everything. Isaac Asimov in writing of his own problem in this regard likened the problem to an orchard in which one was limited to, say, a particular branch on a single tree. “I want the whole orchard,” he said. Me too.

So I’m on a bit of a hiatus as I contemplate my next graduate attainment. Another master’s before the Ph.D.? Or go straight to the Ph.D. And for both of those questions, Study what, particularly? One or other of the following, I think: History, Philosophy, or Theology.

But you see, I would still be deviant because I would still be wanting to study and write outside of the narrow domains of those fields! And my problem doesn’t really get better if I am able to pick a field, because the idea of a Ph.D. is, for most people, to end up teaching at a university. That doesn’t always sound interesting to me.

At this point it’s all academic, so to speak. The brakes were put on the entire process by an illness in the family a few years ago and the attendant paying off of medical bills. Oh, yeah, and a kid in college. So, I may not be get to work on that terminal degree. Ever. In that case, I’ll still be deviant, because I’ll be reading and studying things with no hope of reading and studying for the purpose of producing anything as a result.

If I were the kind given to Jerry Springer or Oprah Show style public displays of disatisfaction with life (especially disatisfaction with how long it’s taking to get back to school), I might have called this blog “Dejected Scholar” (or maybe “Scholar, Interrupted”). But I don’t do public pychological nudity (H/T:Michael Savage).

I’ll keep you posted.

One more thing. In case you haven’t already noticed, I blog on everything. But I’m especially keen on the intersection of Christian faith and surrounding culture – just about all areas of cultural endeavor, including philosophy, politics, economics, history, science, religion, and the arts.

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About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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