Did you picture me this way? Probably not. Some of our readers are still having trouble figuring out my gender. (This is ok, I'm technically also still figuring that out, despite what the goatee might suggest.)
Anyway, it's been a while since we chatted, no? A few weeks in fact. It's been a rather tumultuous time for me, what with graduating from college (BA in English and Art, Summa Cum Laude), getting rather dreadfully ill for the second time this semester, being tossed into the real world, and finding out that basically no one that I thought might help me pay for Graduate School is actually helping me pay for Graduate School. In the meantime--and I do sincerely apologize for this--Storming the Ivory Tower has fallen somewhat by the wayside.
In all the turmoil, I got to thinking about the reasons why I write this blog, and why it frustrates me when I can't devote my time to it. As I never met a meta I didn't like, I thought I would try to put some of those thoughts down on paper, partly for my own edification, and partly to help explain the ideas behind this blog just a little bit better.
To help me do that, I've got Comic Me here to help. See, there are a lot of motivations here, and they can be expressed by different aspects of my personality.
Besides, I wanted to get some drawing practice in.
Reason 1: Ideas Are Awesome
There are few things that compare to a new, intriguing idea. This is part of why I consider art in all its forms to be such a profoundly important aspect of human experience: there is something deeply enriching about interacting so closely with the thoughts of another.
This blog is intended to spread that passion for ideas in two ways. For one thing, I want to expose people to new works that they might not be familiar with. I do cover quite a bit of popular culture here--hell, my two sort of iconic subjects are My Little Pony and Lady Gaga, neither of which is particularly obscure at this point--but I try to cover elements of that culture that others might not have observed, and whenever possible I try to showcase works that are a little less well known. Everyone has probably heard Alejandro at some point, for example, but I wonder how many people know about the ten minute long epic video.
Beyond that, however, I want to share the ideas I've gleaned from my own education in the Liberal Arts because I think the ideas are, at the very least, really interesting to play around with. Writing these articles is very similar, in fact, to playing a game. It's a mental challenge: can I decode a text while also explaining how I'm doing the decoding? Can I find something new here that others have overlooked?
These ideas are enriching not simply because they are the cornerstone of civilization (although I do think that's what they are; I'll get back to that idea shortly). They are enriching simply because they bring a certain delight, the same delight you might get from solving a puzzle. It's an intellectual challenge, and it is wonderful to experience.
So, I write because I want to spread ideas; I want to spread ideas because they are a bringer of joy. Or, to put it another way, to experience a new idea is akin to inspiration--hence the lightbulb-topped Professor Grampy hat in my picture above.
Reason 2: This Work is Important
One other reading of that image is that ideas lead to enlightenment. It's a pretty bad pun, but it's a rather important one, I think. This is an idea that I'll be expanding on in some future articles I have planned, incidentally, so I won't go into too great a detail here, but the evidence I'm seeing seems to suggest that there's a correlation between the ability to form complex, multi-tiered thought and generally liberal values. Now, I'm sorry (kinda) if I offend anyone with this, but fundamentally I simply believe that liberal values are ethical values. On this side of the political equation you get things like the anti-war movement, mobilization for the rights of women, queers, people of color, and other oppressed groups at home and abroad, environmentalist concerns, and so on and so forth.
What I find interesting in implication here is that it's not just that learning specific Liberal Arts concepts makes people more prone to the kind of complex, compassionate thought you see with the kind of causes I listed above. It's the process of thinking like a Liberal Artist that makes a difference--in other words, it's the ability to take the kind of games I play in my articles and extrapolate the process out to other situations. What we know about our brains suggests that these sorts of thought processes are learned ways of looking at the world, and if you exercise your ability to form complex, nuanced thoughts, you'll be able to view new information in a critical way.
There's an element, too, of simply broadening the understanding of our shared intellectual heritage. I worry sometimes that in the flood of admittedly awesome new media, we're losing track of some of the old, very valuable insights of the past. Did you get the joke in the cartoon for this section? Something tells me that not a lot of people did, despite the fact that it's a pretty important painting--Liberty Leading the People--that has, in my opinion, quite a bit of relevance to our current time. (I mean, at the very least it shows that the topless members of Occupy Wall Street are actually part of a long and venerable tradition...) This is important, I think, because the art, the writing, the ideas of the past are windows into the emotional experiences of other human beings, however distant. It is similar to how the media of today coming from other countries, other continents, is a vehicle for shared understanding. Ideas, whether artistic or analytical, are in part empathetic, and they help us to learn empathy.
Isn't empathy, in our day and age, a value to be cherished?
That said, I fear I may be trying your empathy a little bit--or at least your patience--with the next reason:
Reason 3: I Am Desperate For Attention
Come on, say the rest of the line...
Oh fine, spoilsport.
So, thank you, all of you, for Storming the Ivory Tower with me.
Join me next Sunday or Monday when I finally start posting articles about something other than my damn neuroses. I've got some good stuff planned, I think, so stick around. Because ideas are only worth anything if they're shared.
Incidentally, if you want to feed my pathetic ego, you can follow me on Google+ at gplus.to/SamKeeper or on Twitter @SamFateKeeper. As always, you can e-mail me at KeeperofManyNames@gmail.com. If you liked this piece please share it on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, Equestria Daily, Xanga, MySpace, or whathaveyou, and leave some thoughts in the comments below.