As Quiet as it's Kept: The Life of Theory within the Life of A Teacher

  • Wesley Whitaker


A girl melodically whines in the background. “Stop,” Frank says. An acoustic guitar softly strums a collection of power chords that quickly build into sharp piercing percussion. An electric guitar joins, the whining continues – louder and somehow more purposeful – yet this time she is allowed to continue. Ten seconds pass while the melody increases until Frank again speaks: “With your feet in the air and your head on the ground/ Try this trick and spin it, yeah/Your head will collapse, but there's nothing in it, and you'll ask yourself/ Where is my mind?” (Francis, 1988, no.7). I sit here for a moment in wonderment about this question that has teasingly tagged along hidden just behind me for as long as I can remember. In song, The Pixies answer the question metaphorically: “Way out on the water, see it swimming.” “How perfect,” I thought sarcastically. A question that once playfully flirted in my thoughts thus suddenly gave me a concussion.

Music, to me, has always been inspiration for thought: A way for me to relate to others far away in time and space. Today, as I stand again beside my truck staring at both the Atlantic Ocean and another day spent watching two yellow lines zip along an empty stretch of coastal highway, that song is all I can think about. I suddenly understand that if I can answer its question that was first asked of a child nearly twenty years ago, I will finally be able to rest as an adult. My mind, as Descartes put it, is certainly housed within my body “more intimately than a pilot in a ship” (in Raymond, 1991, p. 369) and it falls clumsily, ceaselessly, to the extent that I can’t always control, or define who I am. This struggle, this grappling that is between my individual, sometimes clear, peaceful, subjective being and all that is within materialistic intersubjectivity, has been killing me slowly. I have realized, as did Stevenson’s main character, that “I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two” (1904, p. 383). I am one person, yet inherently I know two intimately who are engaged in an abusive struggle for control of this being.