My Philosophy, Part 2011

Jose 4 Comments

Jose Vilson, Beyond 2011

Recently, Chuck Klosterman wrote an exceptional article on contemporary writer legend Jonathan Franzen in GQ Magazine, where Klosterman devotes a significant amount of time to Franzen’s perceptions of himself and people’s perceptions of him. He prefaced the entire article with this fantastic description of Franzen: “Important is a problematic word, particularly when prefaced by the modifier most and especially when prefaced by the modifier only. To classify a man as important is very different from merely calling him great, because an important person needs to matter even to those who question what he’s doing.” He writes later:

GQ: “What’s the least accurate thing anyone has written about you?”
JF: “I don’t read much about myself. I learned my lesson after spending ninety ill-advised minutes Googling myself once in the fall of 2001. I think the whole “Franzen is a spoiled elitist” thing was wrong, although not without a kernel of truth. I do lead a privileged life. I do believe some books are better than others. I do think that mere popularity does not indicate greatness. In those respects, I suppose I’m an elitist. But I think what was meant by the term elitist at the time was the antithesis of what I’ve tried to do as a writer, which is to reach the largest possible audience. I’ve worked so long – and in such a conscious way – to not exclude people. So that was galling.”

What an observation. The frame Klosterman and Franzen set for writers (and anyone who takes themselves seriously) is complex, but straightforward. At once, we’re asked to balance factors of human nature for the betterment of the individual (and the collective). This thought traverses with my personal growth from “hating” to critiquing, from critiquing for the sake of constructing walls to critiquing for the purposes of building communities. I’ve exponentially decreased the amount of gossip surrounding me for the sake of my personal sanity, but also to substitute it for understanding trends amongst the other humans I work with in every sense of the word.

It means that I express myself less in public for the sake of making my seldom points more poignant when I do speak up. I’ve cut my social media blasts in half, but doubled my replies. I’ll still read people’s statements, but if I’m not impressed enough to reply to it, I won’t make indirect comments about it. I don’t participate in chats as often anymore, but when I do, I strive for the pithy, the punctual. I read as often as possible to get more conversations started in person, but it puts me in prime position to distinguish the helpful from the mundane.

I’m encountering lots more mundane., as I’m sure you have.

I know you’ve been following me for the four years (to the day) that I’ve been writing my niche blog, and I have a good understanding of my audiences’ innermost visions. The people want the intelligent, quirky, unrestricted, unfiltered without feeling like they’re being talked down to. They want vulnerability without the pretense of humility. They want education viewed from the people who actually do the work, and a viewpoint on the future with an appreciation of the past and an active present. They want elitism in the form of quality, not class or race.

If you’re one of those people, then this is your blog.

The blog, delicate yet strong in design, hopes to emphasize less on me the person and more my experiences. I’d love for my experiences to reach the largest possible audience because I do believe I share viewpoints seldom expressed in the mainstream, but I also won’t sacrifice my principles for the sake of appeasement or popularity. I love writing because it simultaneously lets me re-enact the facets of my life I’m still trying to understand, but also because I know you are, too. Sometimes you won’t comment, but I know you’re reading, nodding along, retweeting, liking, e-mailing, or telling your class that it’s OK to write with a bit of abandon when your name is on the line.

You’ve seen it done here. Pass it along.

For writers and readers alike, there are three levels of writing. There’s writing where people feel nothing towards, there’s writing people sympathize with, and there’s writing people empathize with. I hope this blog serves more on the third level. It’s like you know exactly how I wanted you to feel.

Jose, who just could. not. wait.

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonMy Philosophy, Part 2011

Comments 4

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  2. talda

    i have to applaud your maturity in the days of social networking stupidity. if only more people were as judicious. that said, and having been witness to the maturity in your writing [oh the "hater" days], i’m looking forward to reading more of what you write.

  3. Matt

    This guy Franzen surely strikes a certain tone of condescension in his writing. One that immediately puts the reader in his place. NY Times dilettante David Brooks has much the same sort of pitch, which, if it’s not elitist, is altogether smug and insufferable diaphaneity. It doesn’t play well out here in the prickly fields. We do know when we’re being talked down to. Call it a vestigial class consciousness, a race memory, or an innate lack of servility, but woe to him who discounts or insults our intelligence.

  4. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Talda, thanks. It has been a long time since I’ve hated so effectively. Maturity will do that to you. But you gotta admit: it was fun.

    Matt, I find Brooks more dishonest than Franzen. Yes, Franzen is a little arrogant, but reading his writing, I see why. I personally like the writing, even when he’s flying higher than need be. Brooks, on the other hand, has writing with far-reaching implications on a cultural level, and simply abuses it for the sake of others’ indignation.

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