And another inspired, and sadly long-delayed, bit of lunacy left on the board by my generally deranged Dar al-Islam class last spring. They did their best both to hide it behind the sliding blackboards, and then "accidentally" help me discover it. I like the art work quite a bit, and it's a nice artifact from one of my all-time favorite classes. It also got me thinking about the message behind the artwork, which I also appreciate. It speaks to my five year, and increasingly serious, flirtation with converting to Islam. It's strange how many of my almost transcendent moments have come in the deserts of the Middle East, which may mean something mystical - or it could just mean that I like the calm and serenity and sparse beauty of the desert. I'm still working my way thorough the metaphysics of that issue, and of the entire question of conversion. One of the subjects that students always find fascinating is that of jihad, which, unfortunately, all too often, and usually not accidentally, gets horribly misrepresented in the western media. Inevitably some talking head from a "think tank" refers to jihad as a holy war, usually against the west, as compared to it's more general and correct notion of any action wherein you're asking God's assistance. So, I often tell my students that they could declare jihad to get through my class, and Lord knows they need all the help they can get. In the artwork I'm declaring jihad because my students lack a moral compass, which is one of my favorite catchphrases (and which all my students can quote by the third week). Lacking a moral compass in my class usually relates to continually changing seats or coming in late without a propitiatory offering of donuts - serious crimes, but not really worthy of a declaration of jihad. That said, it did get me thinking about what would qualify for my own personal jihad. That is, what is so important to me that I would seek divine assistance. It may sound cheesy, but in the end it would probably be teaching. Beyond family and friends, I certainly don't place more value on anything - and I'm certain that more than one member of my family and friends would assure you that I place far more value on teaching than on them. I always tell my students on day one of every semester that I believe, which I do, that nothing is more important than what goes on in the classroom every day, because the vast majority of the problems in the world are caused by ignorance and their solutions inevitably come from knowledge. So what we do in the classroom is essential - and everything else is mainly onanistic bullshit. It also means that I can be very difficult to deal with - both for my students and especially for my administrators - because I can't turn it off. All too often decisions are made in the academic universe for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with our one true mission, the transformative role that education plays in the lives of our students.
|One of my favorite Hadith - "The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr."|