„Erudite“ austere wrote.
The word „eruditio“ literally means to bring someone out of his/her raw state; „rudis“ meaning „raw“ and „red“, the praefix „e(x)“ out and the suffix „ditio“ from „dare“, what in this combination can be thought of as our „to do“ – literally to give or to bring. In summa: to bring out of the raw. The erudite is a refined person, an educated one. Am I this?
Yesterday I attended the first meeting for the new semester in a small university. We were more teaching personal (the head, her assistant, two temporary lecturers (a collegue and me, Lehrbeauftragte), two students as tutors: 6 persons) than students (5, two coming by after nearly an hour) – they gathered in the cafes in the old town centre …
I met a young man whom I know to be near the end of his studying. I asked him whether he has a theme for his final work. He asked me about a certain area in the northern part of Bavaria and – being born there – I could tell him that it was terra incognita, because after the war the inner-german border put this area to nowhere – the world had an end there and no ethnological research was done for at least 40 years.
He smiled and told me that he would specialize in this area and pick some „material“ theme, like house-building or clothes or something like that, because these theoretical, scientific ideas would be too „unmaterial“ for him.
At this moment I felt like a relic, a remnant, something left over from a feast. Old. He will become a specialist, he will do good work because he learned the trade, what means that he attended the seminars and learned the methods, got an insight in the literature and learned to help himself within „the business“. He will finish his study, get the degree and he will „get a job“, maybe at a museum in the area. Do not get me wrong: I am delighted for him, he does nothing wrong, he will make a living from what he studied.
That’s not it.
It is all different from my idea of studying, from my life and everything I have done. It is absolutly different from my idea of science, especially from a science that deals with something like „culture“, „Vergleichende Kulturwissenschaft“ (Comparing science of culture) as some modernists once called the good old „Volkskunde“ – all is today summarized in the „European Ethnology“.
I studied because I fell in love with thinking – and I am still. I have no regular job and I am living on the brink of bankerot. I am no specialist for a certain geographical area or for something like – pottery.
I know how to lead a museum, a group, a project – I have done this – and I know how NOT to do this. I know a lot about authority. It is given to one and if it is used for betrayal once it is gone for ever. I can use it. I never wanted these experiences. I always wanted to read and write and think. Give a lecture from time to time. About the 16th and 17th century in Europe, geistes- und kulturwissenschaftliche Abteilung. Again: Do not get me wrong: I do not complain or lament. Things happen.
But this young man … Clean, polished, smooth, self-confident, awake – yes … Taking his alcoven, finding his nieche: He will be a good craftsman.
Arrogance is one of the deadly sins. I know.
At official appointments I am the one in the caramel suit.