Vancouver conclusions

2005-09-17

in Daily updates

My dear friend Alison BenjaminThe instant I got back from the shortened hike, or rather about three quarters of the way through the zombie movie Jonathan and I were watching afterwards, life suddenly became a lot busier. Aside from an unbloggable surprise, I came home to a large mangled envelope from Wadham College. Along with a trio of order forms for caps, gowns, and other similarly silly regalia, they want me to ask permission for every electrical device I am bringing, by means of a request form. They also want five more photos (in addition to the seven I have already sent at various times), a medical questionnaire, a student contact information form, and some other miscellaneous paperwork. The oddest things is the condition of the package, which has the look of having been treated with genuine cruelty by the people at the post office.

Sarah has eased my concerns about the Oxford reading list considerably. I’d also like to thank her again for suggesting Wadham College. Reading through their materials, I am glad to see that they are much less stuffy than I feared a college might be. In particular, their Queer Bop sounds like great fun. There is enormous pleasure that can be had from taking leave of one’s inhibitions, when in the company of people who you respect and who have a sense of irony. Their stated aim: “to provide a humane and civilised environment for intellectual and personal growth” could also hardly be improved.

Otherwise, I spent tonight finishing my comprehensive read of this week’s Economist. After eight years and around 400 issues, it’s not a thing I will be dropping at Oxford – regardless of the reading load they demand. I maintain that I have learned more about politics, history, and the world at large from this one publication than from any other identifiable source. If I could inject one changed preference into the mind of my youngest brother, it would certainly be the substitution of a love of reading for the elongated pointlessness that is ceaseless computer gaming.

So, the departure party is tomorrow. For many of you, this will be the last chance to see me during the next two years – barring the surprise of a return to Vancouver before the completion of the M.Phil. I am excited about the party and I hope the attendance will be good. I see it as a chance to move forward the process of forgetting the short-term irritations that can strain relationships and leave things on a good footing before my departure. Clearly, that can’t be achieved with everyone in so short a time and among so many others but, between these last weeks, the party, and the few days to come, I will do what I can. Shirley Hazzard remarks that “when a man returns, it is usually to women;” the converse is equally true. Above all, it is women from whom I am departing.

Thinking about the unbloggable surprise, I sometimes feel that all of life is nothing but a shambles: a rough tangle of thoughts and experiences and histories that are impossible to pin down or agree upon. Sometimes, I feel menaced by the past. Often, I feel threatened by the future. In the end, I suppose I muddle along – sometimes inspired, sometimes enamoured – but mostly propelled by an ancient energy that is ultimately quite outside of me. It’s a stream beyond individual intention that just sweeps us all along, towards the inevitable unknown.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

B September 17, 2005 at 6:35 am

Somehow, I can just tell that you will fall in love in Oxford – fall and fall and fall.

Milan September 17, 2005 at 7:09 am

I just bought “Letter from an Occupant” by the New Pornographers from the iTunes music store. It’s worth so much more than half a cup of coffee, though it is regrettable that it’s a DRM-locked file that will probably be useless once iTunes and the iPod get left behind. Even so, the song is just awesome.

Tristan Laing September 17, 2005 at 2:53 pm

I have the song, I can send it to you via Skype. Thank you for reminding of it’s excellence.

Milan December 7, 2005 at 2:23 am

[Editorial note: Internal links shifted to new domain, 6 DEC 2005.]

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