Mere Observer

Lying here looking at the ceiling , I am reminded of various observational mishaps. The first one that comes to mind is something that happened to me in college once. After graduating, I returned the following year to take some more philosophy classes that had not been offered during my time at CSU, Fresno. The very first day I was sitting in Professor Winant’s Philosophy of Language class listening to her introduction to the subject and the class, and explanation of the syllabus. It was quite interesting. Then, to pair up everyone in the class, she counted off, “one”, “two”, “one”, “two”,… so that each person was assigned to either the “one” group or the “two” group. She ended on a “two”. Great, we are even. To make sure she got everyone and that the groups were even she asked the “ones” to raise their hand, and counted hands. Then the “twos”. But we didn’t come out even. Weird. So, thinking she must have miscounted the hands, she did it all over again. Again we were not even. Then, as she was starting to count for the third time, I realized why the groups were not coming out even. I was not raising my hand for either group. It’s not that i wasn’t paying attention to what was going on, I was earnestly.

In my head, I had become an observer, so much so that I had somehow forgotten that I was also a participant — that I was actually there in the room, and not just watching it on TV. And this, dear friends, feels like the story of my life. Observing, not participating. Watching in fascination as the parade goes by, but too scared, shy, lazy, preoccupied, busy, confused, or just stupid to jump in. But it’s no way to live, not at all.

  • Perhaps observers make the best photographers? Also, I LOVED philosophy of language. It’s one of the classes I did best in… whatever that means. Still have my reader.

  • Anonymous

    Really? Was it “The Philosophy of Language” by Martinich (Oxford)? Mine’s the 2nd edition.

  • Anonymous

    Peter,
    Thanks for visiting, and for the words of encouragement. I’m hoping to be able to do more this next year.