The last month has been a busy one. I’ve graded roughly 400 pages of student papers, and I’ve given about 60 hours of lectures. I haven’t spent much time writing, and I feel good about that. Well, I suppose I’ve done some writing, if you count lecture notes, syllabi, and emails to students. To adapt a phrase from Mick Jagger, it’s only teaching, but I like it. This is what I do.
I consider myself a teacher far more than I would consider myself a writer. Along those lines, I feel an affinity with Heidegger: my work is not to write, but to teach, where teaching is understood not as advising or instructing (belehren) but as a practice of letting learn (lernen lassen). Foucault is also a companion in that regard. I often recall his statement that he is a teacher and not a writer or a public intellectual or a philosopher. This isn’t to say that being a teacher precludes writing. Heidegger and Foucault wrote quite a lot. But they were not writers.
I would say that teaching is more difficult than writing. Indeed, teaching is even more difficult than learning, since the teacher has to learn how to let students learn. The teacher has to be more teachable than the students. I feel like that’s almost verbatim from one of my favorite Heidegger books: What is Called Thinking? Not incidentally, that book is a series of lectures, like so many of Heidegger’s works.
I’m sure there are some possible rebuttals to what I’m saying here. Nonetheless, I simply can’t shake some of my Heideggerian convictions… after so much walking along the path, still coming into the nearness of distance… Hier stehe, ich kann nicht anders.