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My Philosophy, Part 2011

by Jose Vilson on February 3, 2011

in Jose

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.

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Why I Blog

by Jose Vilson on July 19, 2009

in Jose

Me Thinking

Me Thinking

Last week, a lady did a semi-interview with me regarding why I blog. At first, the question seemed simple enough, and I wrote:

I blog because it gives me a space to express my views, and whether right or wrong, I just let my opinions rip … and tend to say the things that some people won’t.

Now, I don’t know if that’s enough. In that moment, I hoped to emit an air of humility and simplicity. In retrospect, I effectually dismissed my own deep and personal reasons for writing what and how I do. I recently had to confront and reflect on my own blogging practices, another effect of hearing Cornel West and Julian Bond speak about the past, present, and future of the NAACP. In their conversation, I found overt challenges to the status quo to simply lay down and accept the state of the world as is. Setting that high standard for what the world can achieve propels these men to strive for world peace, not just for Blacks or other colored people, but for humanity as a whole.

In the same way, I’d like my blog to reflect that philosophy. At a time when it’s become easy to settle into this weird mix of fatalism and misplaced optimism, we have to see ourselves as true agents for peace in our respective fields. My writing comes from a place where hostility and war have become localized and internalized to the point where war abroad doesn’t unnerve us, where we look at stories of abject poverty and corrupt government like a reflection and not a window, where we live in a much different place than the America mainstream America believes we live in, and where even with the slightest glimmer of hope, we wonder whether we’ll ever get taken care of.

But I can only hope to address one or two of these things at a time. No man can do much more than that. And almost conveniently, I happen to teach. With the dearth of people with my experiences out there in the millions of blogs out there, I blog because I want the people who have at least a similar experience to talk about those experiences with a frankness that’s not always attainable. Even when I’m not writing about education, I’m doing it from the lens of a young(er) Latino-Black NYC educator who’s prompting myself and others to think critically about the issues for ourselves and for what we deem the future.

The education part is really just me redefining what we consider to be under the education realm, and how so few of our kids actually find real-life implications for the lessons they ingest (or don’t) in the classrooms so many of my readers lead. None of this is easy to truly live. I still have a few pedagogical books lying on my shelf crying out to me to read. I’m sure there are a few students and administrators out there who might not be happy with me as a teacher, and that’s all well and good. But I can’t stop writing just to acquiesce to my detractors anymore than I can’t stop them from having their opinions.

I blog because in my little way, it gives me hope that I can address topics to guide the conversation, not simply postscript what’s already out there. Even after I’ve attained my goals, I know it’s about what I’m going to do now

Jose, who just wanted to write today …

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