Yesterday I listened to a couple of papers in a small conference here in Tours. In the way how I understand those things, it was boring, too boring to assist any more. It was the philological kind, just checking up words. Without any loftier intellectual ambitions.
But it made me think about what does it mean small and unassuming in the West. Certainly, here we are completely out of the ranking; this university doesn't even appear among the 700 best ones. But is it the equivalent of being in a small conference in, let's say, Akademia Pomorska, or any other "humanities-and-sciences-and-technology" Akademia in Bielsko-Biała, Częstochowa or wherever?
I see the difference, this slight, tiny difference that may pass unnoticed and nonetheless pads the whole big difference. This conference here in Tours was very modest, very modest indeed, as to my standards, but precise. They were talking about their tiny topics with precision, and this is why they were heading, even if it was by baby steps, towards something that was essentially true, based on something, linked to a reality. This is what my colleagues in the old country miss, even in much greater and more ambitious endeavours. Connection to a reality. They have ideas, and persuasions, and world-views ("poglądy"), and they stick to them. While they know the basic bibliography only by the word of mouth, seeing no real need to know it precisely -- otherwise they would possibly read the books, which are translated into Polish and available. (Here I think about some material that has fallen into my lap recently; someone heard about the community of no-matter-which individuals, yet this idea, although still recognisable, was by no means related to the name of Giorgio Agamben nor linked to a book title in the bibliography; by the way, in this case, the notion has been presented as false, and rejected, because in contradiction with a world-view. In other cases, I saw such barely recognisable notions migrate from one name to another, from Hegel to Freud, creating quiproquos endowed with considerable hilarious potential. Expressions out of their original context, transformed into mere figures of speech, like the Nietzschean "marching army of metaphors" that became a marching army of I no longer remember what -- cultures, I guess -- it was the marching army of cultures...). They have no precise concepts of a given provenience, only vague notions open to any permutation; with them, they build castles in the air. Missing entirely not only the absurdity, but also the random hilariousness of their constructs. Bitter laughter it is, still, for me.
Certainly, coming to castles in the air, I'm not free from this flaw myself. This is why I stick to these western ways, to these small paths of truthful examination. This attitude is the missing link of my chain. This is how I build the ground below my castles, hopefully.
Shall I build my castles on the ground, and of solid stone? Perhaps one day the awareness will dawn in me that it is precisely what I've always done. Otherwise I would have never come to this.
In Amsterdam, they say they are not yet klaar with all the evaluation, and they will answer me in six weeks from now.