I’ve spent the month of January finalizing the ‘business as usual’ disguised as excitement in the form of conducting exams at the university.
For my part, these exams were my last, as I’ve made the decision to leave the academia. I simply cannot stand the dullness of academic life anymore, the fear of being fired in spite of your grand title, and consequently the eagerness for who is to be master: The master of being able to score a sack of money from this and that large corporation that can afford to indulge the poor academics who think they have a great, and above all, relevant idea. The academia has become a place for something other than higher learning. Bless its soul. Nothing is high and nothing is luminous. I wish it good luck on its path to hell.
But one event related to my last days among ‘illuminati’ made me think of full circles.
In Denmark exams at the university are conducted in the presence of an external examiner – either from another university or some other educational institution. This is a good rule the socialists have invented to prevent any potential misconduct – read that as, ‘thou shall not fuck your students, either literally or metaphorically.’
The external examiners are part of a corps, and they do the rounds in such a way that you never know whom you’re going to get much in advance, nor do you have any say in it. For instance, you can’t decide that you want to have a specific colleague or a friend sitting with you in the examination rooms. No, sirs.
In this round of last exams I happened to sit with a former professor of mine, someone who taught literary theory – my favorite subject – on my first semester; someone who also gave me my first job as a teaching assistant at Aalborg University as soon I graduated in 1998. Not longer after that I left Aalborg to engage in doctoral studies in Odense, and then do a postdoc in Lisbon. I came back to my alma mater after all these travels, but then I soon left again, because Roskilde University had a better deal for me at the level of associate professor.
Now, during my 10 years of tenured professorship here, I have often thought of having my first professor sit with me for my oral exams. It never happened until the very end, just when I decided to ditch my academic career and do something else instead.
Being someone who consciously practices living the magic life, this made me think of a full circle. I asked myself:
What is the significance of starting my academic career in Aalborg, and ending it too with an Aalborg connection? I should mention that I absolutely love the city of Aalborg, where I spent 17 years of my life.
Once I began going against the dullness at Roskilde University, a few, former colleagues started asking me: ‘Are you coming back to Aalborg?’ I just said, ‘no’.
But since my last exam, I began to visualize this full circle, while also getting the distinct impression that I can do something about enhancing the emergent, new life narrative for myself: (within this closed circle and outside of it too) – after all, everything we experience is stories in our heads.
The full circle as magic circle
I decided to design a layout that you may also find useful:
You need 8 cards for this. I’ll give you as an example my very cards, answering this two-fold question:
- What is the significance of the Aalborg full circle for me now?
- What do I take with me from it, and is there a loop in it, opening the door to something related, yet different?
Place 6 cards in counter-clockwise manner. The first 3 are the beginning of the circle. The last 3 close the circle.
Place in the middle of the circle 2 cards, face down. These represent what you take from the circle, and the loop, respectively. Look at these cards only after you’ve done your reflections regarding your full circle.
2 7 8 5
Here is what I had to say about mine, for inspiration:
When I fist started on my academic path, I had ambitions (Devil), the ambition to go all the way and formalize everything (Justice). But secretly I also entertained the idea of acquiring hidden knowledge (Popess), thus placing myself in the position of not letting others know what I know. After all, my whole formal training is all about words, and as we know, words can perform many things, explicit and implicit.
Whatever I’ve acquired in Aalborg sent me off to another institution (Tower), and I kept going (Charioteer) – incidentally, after my PhD and postdoc studies, I acquired what in Denmark is considered the highest, the Dr.Phil degree, so the seed of my ambition to go all the way came to realization within the same circle of work.What closes the circle is my least favorite card: The card of the Lovers. This card is a card of ambivalence, of having to make a decision when you would prefer not to. Ambivalence is the opposite of clear mind. Mirroring the Popess on the diagonal line, who is famous for her clairvoyance, I see the Lovers as a setback.
At the same time, since we’re with lovers here, the good news is that if you must make a choice, then you may as well consider doing what you love.
In a way, the cards on the left emphasize a focalization. The cards on the right emphasize breaking out of the discipline of formal training, whether exoteric (Justice) and esoteric (Popess), forging ahead (Charioteer) towards acknowledging other alternatives (Lovers).
From a Devil perspective, mirroring the Lovers card, the interesting question to pose here is this one: What if I chose both, whatever ‘both’ represents? Who says that I have to go either with the one or the other? Who imposes any such limitation on my minds?
As a side note, this is exactly what I always think when I see the Devil mirroring the Lovers. The Devil invites you to say: ‘I love them both’, whatever ‘them’ represents. ‘I choose them both.’
This can be dangerous from a cultural perspective, as society is happier if we not only act on dictations, but also refrain from defying Aristotelian logic that prescribes this: ‘You can’t be both A and B, you can’t have both A and B, because that means trouble. If you insist, we’ll make sure that your ass will be thoroughly busted, not a cell left unturned.’
Meanwhile, the Popess still knows what she knows.
Let’s look at what I take from the circle.
I take the Star with me. I like this one. This one tells me that I possess my own light, and that I can take it with me wherever I damn please.
Is there a loop in my circle?
The loop is the circle itself, the very wheel of fortune, the one that reminds me of change, change as the mother of all opportunities, even the opportunity to suspend judgment and opinion and love them both, whatever ‘both’ represents.
It’s not a bad circle, my full circle. Initiated by the Devil, and finished off by the lesser Devil, the one who enslaves by never choosing, my circle takes me riding on acknowledging the necessity of accepting change. When change is accepted as a matter of course, no Devil can be after you, for what will you be resisting? Nothing at all. No resistance, no Devil. No Devil, no ambivalence.
As with all systems that deconstruct themselves, this Tower is also a welcome and necessary addition. There is nothing that is stable, solid, and fixed. ‘Ride on,’ the Charioteer says. ‘Let your wheels take you places,’ the Wheel says. Change is all around you. ‘Close your eyes and think of England.’
And so I shall.
Full circles are magic circles. Think of that, next time you contemplate yours.
The course in Radiant Reading is open for registration. We do there what I do here: ask nasty questions, answer them like the Devil, and then go beyond. Join us if you’re familiar with the Marseille cards.