Monday, June 2, 2008

Pattaya One: The Prequel

I am going to Pattaya tomorrow, where I am assured that everything will be free. The university is taking us down on buses. Many departments, if not all, are going somewhere nice, Biology is going to Cha Am, I’ve been, it’s nice. There will be seminars to endure, but since they will be presented in Thai no one expects me to attend. We have a nice hotel lined up, right on the beach, almost certainly ESPN and Star Sports, watch a little Australian Football, those guys are nuts, maybe the basketball playoffs have started. How would I know?

In the midst of this, I found myself considering my education, nothing to do with anything but that’s how I do things. Today I was reading some of the thoughts of one of the great thinkers of the Twentieth Century, Buckminster Fuller. He spent considerable time mocking contemporary attempts at education. Counterproductive, etc. Teaching kids to think in squares when everybody knows the real wisdom is found in tetrahedrons. He’s a trip, that’s for sure.

In a moment of supreme self-flattery, I wondered if I had intuited just the same conclusion that he had reached semi-academically: I certainly stopped trusting contemporary education, where it came to educating me, at a point fairly early in my academic career. Really, I think in my case a deep, well reasoned hostility to authority was the cause of my disengagement from conventional education. One way or the other, in the seventh grade I gave up on those people and set off to educate myself. Not in so many words, but I was genuinely, feverishly interested in so many things that the result was a great deal of reading and inquiry. Through four years of high school, I co-operated not at all, read nothing that was assigned, copied all of the homework, only half listened in class since I had to be there anyway and counted on what I’d heard to take me through the tests. I passed everything and graduated: in my class of 291 students I was number 271. I have always been proud of that. In that four years I had learned a lot more than almost anybody in my class. I’d become a good chess player too. You don’t have to believe me, I have nothing to prove to you or anybody else. Not intellectually, those facts speak for themselves.

Later I got myself a good conventional education, BA at thirty-five and JD at forty-three. What does it all mean? Nothing, I suppose.

But now Pattaya, on Ramkhamhaeng’s nickel, should be fun, good seafood, nice steamed sea bass with chili-lime flavoring, some nam-geem, mmmm. Pattaya is a zoo, I’d never go there just because I wanted to. Lots of Russian tourists staggering around drunk with horrible sunburns, a large beer bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, pulling at girls clothes as they go, laughing grotesquely, in stupid outfits. Not my scene. Lots of desperate young women inviting you to “have a drink,” and “relax.” What else is there to do, though, for any of us, but wander through this shitty world cataloging the sad, awful things that surround us? Should be fun. I may even bring a bathing suit.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, 99 per cent of everything is crap, but oh--that one per cent!

Anonymous said...

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."
-Albert Einstein

Anonymous said...

Happy Fred, look at that happy son of a gun! These are fantastic.


Anonymous said...

Your parents ruin the first half of your life, and your kids ruin the second half.

Something I wanted to say, appropos of nothing.


fred c said...

The kids in Thailand actually learn some useful things. Like how to cut and fold banana leaves to make convincing birds and grasshoppers, or how to make nice wind chimes by cutting up Coke cans just so. They also learn some really entertaining mispronunciations of English words. Actually they all learn that it's fun to be Thai and how to settle into it and enjoy it, and that's a great thing to know.