I have survived three department chairmen and even more presidents -- this alone should proclaim my use to this institution! I have been chair of committees, director of centers and programs, developer of courses, and principal investigator of multiple studies. As I was at the institution I graced before, I am here a fierce advocate for the students; every year I befriend some and solicit their vision of what my colleagues should be doing better (which I share with those colleagues when others are also present to benefit from my analysis). But the new guard will not apprehend my accomplishments: when I speak in meetings their eye-rolls lay bare their chagrin for having forgotten my history, for having troubled me to preemptively remind them of it once again. They frustrate my noble efforts and are refractory to anything but that which they have invented themselves.
One example is a colleague many years my junior. I served on the search committee that recommended his hire, and for the first few years he received my mentoring and paid it homage. Robustly he had debated me in committee when I held forth on my superior ideas and chided his naivete, but anymore he remains tight-lipped and poker-faced. On his behalf I act apropos our workgroups’ duties, and then, having been the paragon of leadership that does not tarry for needless consensus-building, I yield to him to take the baton but find his attention relegated to other causes. How is it that he has been thrice promoted, but rightful authority is now denied me at every turn?
Others of my seniority are already half out the door, but I choose not to shrink within my shell amid the stilling that erstwhile boiled around me. Soon enough will come the new hires, unjaded and eager to prove their mettle; they will profit from my alliance. So much have I left to do! I will spearhead new projects and form new subcommittees. I will shape new policy. Great will be my legacy, but so long as I persevere here, will recognition so justly earned ever find me? Nay, I shall not condescend to such vain musings, but rest confident that I will be celebrated long after my departure.
Arthur Stanley Eddington was one of the greats of early 20th-century astrophysics. Essentially, he figured out how stars shine. Part of this is why stars rarely have over 100 times more mass than the Sun: more massive stars would be so powerful, they’d tear themselves apart by their own starlight. Eddington also organized the observations that made Einstein a household name. A news reporter asked Eddington whether it was true that only three people around the world understood Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Eddington replied, “I do, and there’s Einstein. Who’s the third?”ReplyDelete
After Eddington’s death, Astronomer Royal Richard Woolley would become very upset whenever he’d find Cambridge students who didn’t know who Eddington was. Would Eddington have minded? I doubt it, since they certainly were using his work.
One of the best things about being a silverback is that you get to rip people's arm out of the socket and beat them over the head with it. Try it, it's wonderfully therapeutic (for me, at least).Delete
At my (UK boarding) school, the turn of phrase from teachers was "I'll rip your arm off and beat you with the soggy end".Delete
Ogre Proctor Hep this lament does not sound like you. It is not your "voice" that I have come to know and admire. What is going on?ReplyDelete
It's satire, I'm pretty sure. I wasn't entirely sure until I got to the middle of paragraph 2, but "every year I befriend some and solicit their vision of what my colleagues should be doing better (which I share with those colleagues when others are also present to benefit from my analysis)" struck me as a "tell," as did the following descriptions of "mentoring" (i.e. trying to draw into alliance) younger colleagues who are, apparently, smart enough to escape as soon as they can.Delete
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OPH will correct me if I'm wrong - I hope - but this looks like satire from sentence 1 onward.Delete
(Edited to fix "OHP", which rather made him sound like classroom equipment).
I get it now. But, I would not be surprised to see this lament posted as someone's real complaint.Delete
Well done: ". . . every year I befriend some and solicit their vision of what my colleagues should be doing better (which I share with those colleagues when others are also present to benefit from my analysis)."Delete
@EC1 - The categorisation of me as classroom equipment is not entirely unwarranted.Delete
@CC et al. - It is indeed satire, although I didn’t go into it thinking “I will now write some satire.” Rather, I was trying to explore the mismatch between how the actor perceived his own actions and how they are perceived by others. When I chose “graced” in the second paragraph, I knew I was pushing the envelope of the character -- he would think but probably not say something so over-the-top self-congratulatory -- but I felt I needed something to tip off the reader that this wasn’t OPH talking.
@Cindy - Thank you for your kind words and admiration. The silverback in the post is a composite and a bit of a caricature, but that you could see someone posting it as a straight up complaint means that my intent was realized. The way I wrote it, by trying to occupy the silverback’s head, may have something to do with how it came out.
@PG - you can imagine being the “beneficiary” of such sage analysis, can’t you? Good times!
I'm almost shedding a tear for the silverback. Who is slicing an onion around here?ReplyDelete
Well, I did cut something. An onion might have been involved.Delete
Rhetorical style from the tutelage of Yoda I sense.ReplyDelete
Up the shut fuck sometimes I should ;-)Delete
Our villian would see himself as a heroic narrator in a famous poem. To get my head into the game, I read that poem a few times over the course of drafting this piece; I even borrowed some elements from the poem as easter eggs. Virtual beverage of your choice for naming the poem.
I'm thinking Invictus, but there may be a more precise fit that I'm missing. I'm also thinking that T.S. Eliot might portray him well (but that he'd never think of himself as the hero of a T.S. Eliot poem, because T.S. Eliot poems don't have heroes).Delete
Wow, that’s good. Thanks for that. I like that it reads differently, depending on who I imagine as narrator, e.g. an actual war hero vs. the mousy guy down the block who drives a Corvette to ‘compensate’.Delete
I would not be surprised if Invictus had some role in inspiring R.E.M.’s World Leader Pretend. That, too, can depend on whether one images the narrator as an everyperson, an actual world leader, or even someone contemplating disconnecting the machine currently keeping him alive.
The poem I was thinking of is Tennyson’s Ulysses.
(Blogger is blocking my attempts to make hotlinks.)
This is the intro that I left on the cutting-room floor:ReplyDelete
The work piles up in my inbox. My refrigerator and pantry grow suspiciously barren of beer and spirits: when the week’s recyclables are emptied into the truck, the sound suggests the detritus could well have been the aftermath of a frat party. I should be writing another recommendation, but I need to be in anybody’s head but my own. I therefore tender The Silverback Lament.
Had I conceived and written it as myself addressing the composite silverback, I fear the most I could generate would have been “Fuck you, you self-aggrandizing, self-serving, delusional douchebag. Fuck you.” He will indeed be celebrated after his departure, but not as he would imagine.
The kind of guy for whom a leaving party is held, but to which he is not invited?Delete
Hey, there's got to be some upside to all the retirement buyout offers going around these days. Sadly, they're rarely accepted by the right people.Delete