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the state of the civilization

Academics Anonymous

critical nonfiction by Kurt Halliday

if you want to think, that's up to you. If you want to stop, we can help.

I heard Bill Phi say that himself, my first night there.

"My name is Plato," I said when my turn came, "and I'm in."

It was pretty scary just being here. Slouching at the back. Not reading my book. Copying the next guy's doodle.

And we could smoke all we wanted.

A sober young woman got up and she spoke about putting Out Of Order signs on the local court house. After which she lived in a literacy joint across the street for three days waiting for people to "get it". In the end, she didn't get the grant.

A guy from Tulane said he disappeared right after making a joke about Aristotle at Harvard.

A leading follower of Michael Jackson said in his life he was very, very aware that ironic distance became academic distance too easily now. One day he was a high school rock band troublemaker and the next day somebody hooked him on Communitarianism so he got tenure at Oshkosh College. He felt the real issue was The System rather uncritically let him publish in the journals.

I stood there and I said, into the light: "my name is Plato and I'm an academic."

Then I know I hemmed and hawed.

The membership beamed reflectively.

I split some hairs.

"Go, Brother!" they footnoted.

I considered that I didn't know what to say.

Enthusiasm turned into ecstasy, especially along the back.

Then I thought of something. And I pointed out that I had. And they could see it.

"Communication!" I said.

They could really see it.

"A friend of mine. A mentor," I said. "An ugly little know-it-all in a sheet!"

There was an emotional orgasm about mid-room.

"He didn't have a degree!"

This was heaven.

"He didn't even have a diploma!"

They were beside themselves. Or at least incommensurate.

"And what did he do?"

As one, they expressed constructive ignorance.

"He went everywhere just helping people!"

Awe flowed.

"That's what he did!"

A terrible self-seeing started up.

"He talked them down when they were afraid!"

Togetherness ran wild.

"He had time for them!"

A self-seeing and a togetherness went down the aisle forever and ever.

"He would even look at their stuff!"

"Sorry about that," Bill said.

I tried to move a bandage with my thumb.

"Eeeuuu!" was the intelligible end of my output.

"Should of toldja," said Bill.

A nurse came through, saw Latin on my chart, crossed her arms in her navy cardigan, and walked on down the hall.

"Stuff," Bill said.

It was just too damn bright in the room for me to get much out of this.

"Their stuff. You said their stuff."

I felt that if I could just roll over I could get a handle on the basics.

"Nuh - ?" was me saying stuff.

"It's really the work. It's not just the thinking. That's killing them, I mean."

After my effort I just breathed and sweated.

"Thinking's actually just a metaphor… " he began.


Kurt Halliday will be survived in Kingston, Ontario by two near-novels, eighteen sorta-stories, creative non-poetry, wife Janet Anderson, sons Ross and Geoff, three cats and five computers

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