Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cosmopolis Has Me Buried!

With the exception of a few well-needed breaks, I have spent the entire day today working through Toulmin's Cosmopolis. For the past two hours, I have been researching the impact of the Cartesian dichotomy on 17th century philosophy. Surprisingly, I'm absorbing the material pretty well, and am actually fascinated by what I've been learning. The trouble is, I now have an insatiable itch to discuss what I've been reading and researching, and of course, no one to discuss with! Class hasn't officially started yet, and none of my close friends are big enough history nerds to know anything about this subject matter (my close friends are very intelligent people; they just have not studied this area of history). So, I keep spouting off to Jasper, who turns those large eyes on me curiously, perhaps wondering why I keep telling him about the Thirty Years War or Newton's view of the sensorium commune, rather than throwing his ball.

The trouble with Cosmopolis is, while it is very interesting to read, it is also quite heavy. Each time I put the book down for a break, I feel like I have to dig myself out just to return momentarily to present day concerns (such as eating or taking Jasper out). I have little background knowledge of the subject matter, having previously tended to avoid Descartes and Leibniz, which leaves me at a slight disadvantage that I have been battling to overcome. I just don't want to be the stupid, ill-informed one in class. Unfortunately, it feels like my brain has been soaking up so much new knowledge today that it has swollen to uncomfortable proportions. How on earth am I going to balance not one, but three classes of this magnitude?

Do all history graduate students feel like this, or am I just special?

Ah well, time to get back to work. I need to finish this book up tonight; for tomorrow, I have a date with Napoleon.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"