The state of higher education

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

ScreenHunter_02 Oct. 16 10.07 I never know what I'm supposed to be paying attention to when I go to the symphony. In general, wherever I go, I lapse all too easily into sociology, and I start thinking about the posture and the haircuts and the accents of people around me when what I'm supposed to be doing is listening to what they're saying. But at the symphony, where I know so little about what is really at stake, where I am so unskilled in making that judgment learned audiences so love to make as to whether or not the evening's interpretation is a successful one, my reversion to sundry reflexions on anything and everything but the music is almost automatic.

Most recently, I found myself watching Anne-Sophie Mutter playing a violin piece composed specially for her by Sophia Gubaidulina. It was good. I liked it. If anyone was 'off' that evening, I certainly didn't notice, but this may be because I was preoccupied with all sorts of ridiculous and improbable thought experiments, one of which is still with me days later. I tried to imagine, namely, what it would be like if, somehow, I was sent out on stage with a violin in my hands. What could I do? Absolutely nothing. The internal wiring of my body –the neurons and the nerves and the muscles– simply has not been configured so as to enable me to even pretend for a second that I can play a violin. But look at Anne-Sophie Mutter's body. Is it so different? It is a woman's body, but it is not in respect of that difference that she is a violinist and I am not. Where is the difference, then? The difference, obviously, is in the way we were shaped and tendered over the course of years. Her violinist-body and my slouching, contemplative, wholly non-musical body were shaped over the course of many years of handling, of dressage.

Now we're getting close to what I actually wanted to talk about: not music, but the humanities, and the state of higher education in general.

More here.