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Brushing Up Against My Past

During college I was lucky enough to study under professors that bedazzled me with the high scholastic quality of their lectures.

My favorite was a PHD named Dr. Harvey. Dr. Harvey’s breadth of knowledge was staggering. He had godlike analytical and explanatory abilities.

No matter the problem or question, and no matter how complicated or seemingly impenetrable, Dr. Harvey would break down the idea into its fundamental parts, methodically explain how the pieces related to and influenced each other and, through deductive reasoning, present a conclusion that was- not only beyond reproach – but beautiful in it’s elegance and clarity.

Time and again, after reading the assigned text, I would feel confident in my understanding of the material and the implications I had drawn from my studies. I would look forward to presenting my theory during class discussion. This is going to be a valuable contribution, I thought. Heck, my tight grasp of the material and my erudite feedback may even impress Dr. Harvey to some degree. 

Then, of course, once I had finished putting forward my interpretations and stating the verdict, Dr. Harvey would effortlessly and meticulously bulldoze my propositions and suggest alternatives – and Of COURSE – his alternatives were always and obviously correct. 

I never tired of being proved wrong by Dr. Harvey. Experiencing and interacting with the power of his intellect was a privilege. During class, the long standing partitions of my mind tipped over, allowing entry into rich, new lands of intellectual development and play, and I could feel it. 

Occasionally, years after graduation, my thoughts would wonder back to those times with Dr. Harvey and I would think to myself – Dr. Harvey, now THAT’S an academic.

Now comes the bad news.

A few days ago I was moseying about cyberspace. As my eyes scanned across thumbnails in search of an interesting video to watch, an image grabbed my attention. There was a man. Mid 40s. Fair, styled hair. Trendy eyeglasses. Intelligent eyes greeted me from his amicable countenance. Dr. Harvey! It’s him! 

There he was giving a presentation at a TED Talk event. Good for him! Of course, I clicked the link for the video, and I couldn’t wait to hear Dr. Harvey speak. It had been so long. Barely could I believe my luck as the video fired up. What a treat. 

It is with no joy that I report to you that what Dr. Harvey says in this video is little more than so much nonsense. Sophistry. Baseless assertions. Rhetoric – and not particularly compelling rhetoric either. Poorly constructed ideas emerging from foundations of false assumptions. What I was seeing is what goes on in Liberal Art’s departments everyday, all across the world. Pseudo-intellectual babble dressed up in obscure philosophical jargon. Real bullshit. 

So, what happened! How does a great man fall to such an ugly low? 

The answer, naturally, is that he didn’t. Dr. Harvey very likely has not changed. It is I who have changed. I’m not a kid anymore as I was back during the fondly remembered days of being a wide-eyed undergraduate. After 12 years of public school and a year of college I still wasn’t thinking critically. My mind was hungry and defenseless in the presence of characters like Dr. Harvey who, at the time, appeared to be the human personification of a research library/storied social institution. 

I have since learned from real thinkers, and I have some degree of discernment. Watching Dr. Harvey lecture again after all these years has been an odd and interesting experience.  I feel as if I was able to travel back in time, to meet my younger self, and to see him – not as I remember him – but as he really was. It’s been uncanny.

Note: Dr. Harvey is not his real name. Despite what I’ve written, Dr. Harvey was always nice to me, and he was kind enough to write me a recommendation letter after I graduated. So, writing negatively about him without having spoken to him about how I feel would be a betrayal.


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