The Aesthetic of a Professor
Academia as a lifestyle.
The goal of my life is to become an aesthetic. My great work will be posthumous, published when an obsessive scholar collects my literature into a book of essential writings. I want to be romanticized as a philosopher-poet. That being said, I want to be read not because of my tight prose, but because of how my words resonate and linger. When someone describes the smell of old wood and sweet liquor, I want them to also imagine books I’ve written, laying on a mahogany desk, alongside religious figurines and a cigar case. On the wall is a framed mandala, a map of the soul; on the floor is a vibrant patterned rug. There is a divan where clients can lie down as they are hypnotized and guided through their own subconscious. These experimental sessions are scheduled between the lectures I give to standing room audiences. Those talks are recorded as episodes or transcribed as paperback books. I want my thoughts to come easy, not as an external insight, but as a reminder of what the listener already knew. I will be placed on the shelf between science and fiction, sometimes confused as philosophy or religion. I shall spend my days doing what I enjoy, earning well for what I do, and celebrating my achievements with the people I love.
It feels like I’m describing an unlikely ambition, but I am actually inspired by real people who have walked on the same path. I have read them but I have not memorized their prose. Though I am learning to imitate how they speak and write, I cannot quote them verbatim. What I do remember clearly is how their work made me feel. Intellectual sensations have arisen within me. Carrying a copy of their book feels like I’m holding a scholarly talisman.
Five individuals stand out. The first is Fernando Pessoa. He walks with me in the streets of my mental city. We are psychological flâneurs, capable of traveling while sitting still. In his life, Pessoa floated through the streets of Lisbon, lost in thought; today I walk the streets of Manila, visiting literary and poetic spaces. The second individual is Albert Camus, whose fragrant, breezy summers inspire the climate of my inward city. In that secret place I am a professor, sitting in an open cafe by the beach, reading a copy of my own book, preparing for my next lecture. Camus was a handsome, stylish fellow, featured in magazines and celebrated by his contemporaries. He lived a bold, straightforward lifestyle. I would also like to be recognized while I am alive, and then remembered after I am long gone. I would also like to be welcomed in elegant gatherings and give various lectures. I might even win a literary prize.
Beside Camus are Carl Jung and Alan Watts. They gently integrate my Eastern spirit with Western structure. My soul is housed in an astral castle. I walk among sages and shamans, and find that they are all me. Jung’s esoteric work went deep. He was as much a mystic as he was a scientist. Watts is not so far off. Both men were cultured and sophisticated, but in person they made it seem so easy. They were empathic and approachable while also being commanding and eloquent. They inspired generations and moved through time, being what bridged the gap between ancient wisdom and modern thought. In essence, however, they did not really say anything new. They merely translated what was already known. What impresses me about them is how they published enough books to fill a small library. Also that their audio and video recordings are still being used today, to ease a perennial spiritual disquiet. Jung and Watts were two waves of the same ocean. I would like to be as relevant.
Finally, to instruct my intellect is Jaime Bulatao, the Jesuit psychologist who studied religion and the transpersonal nature of consciousness. He used hypnosis as a tool for healing, and frequently guided his students through altered states of consciousness. His office has crystal balls, tarot decks, dowsing rods, and amulets. I would like to have an office like his; I would also like his charisma. (For anyone interested, I have written more about Bulatao here.)
Pessoa inspires my fantasies; Camus, my disposition; Jung and Watts, my psychology and spirituality; and Bulatao, my critical thinking. Their work becomes my work; they are cited secretly in my internal autobiography. Following them, I will speak of metaphysics, psychoanalysis, astrology, the tao, summers, wine, art, and dreaming. It would be difficult to discourage me from doing this. If I am to move according to my nature, as water effortlessly flows, then I would naturally end up there. Thus, by imagining the end, I have already begun. Very soon I will become myself.