Lecture Notes: On Rigor

We do not come fully formed. And we must accept that. Life would be less fulfilling if we did. Living life means forever developing. And the kind of life we require must be “lit by some larger vision.” It is only when we relinquish our desire to make ease our human standard and efficiency our bellwether will we see this light. In order to live one must work.

Our work is what keeps us, so therefore it is not to be taken lightly. What is also not to be taken lightly is the idea that we must work in order to improve our work. Development is not contained by any temporal boundary. It is continuous.

Our objective is to contribute to something larger than that which can be understood by the attainment of grades. Or degrees. Bound together with this larger goal is the realization that none of us are fully prepared to reach this goal. None of us. Students nor teachers. So we must struggle together to ensure that we are at the very least, moving toward the path, so that we can at least see the destination.

It is likely that we, ourselves, may never reach it. But work toward it, we must. Anything less, any effort not guided by this dictate, is an acceptance that we must always be where we are. Reading and writing, then is about liberation from a place–physical and conceptual–that limits our ability to realize not only ourselves, but where we might go.

To take this is as our task is to accept that rigor is our lot. This is work that will not be easy. It cannot be easy. If it comes to you easily, do not trust it. The only thing that we can trust is our commitment to doing it and the feeling of having done it. And that by doing it we have done all that we can do. That is our reward. And it is a reward that is well earned when we see others that have continued the work we began and extended.

Rigor is not punitive. It is simply a reality that the modern world and its challenges have placed for us. We are faced with thinking a freedom that is not inscribed in the logics of the available knowledges–or rather the knowledges made available to us. It would be easy to simply assign an exam that assessed how well you understood that which has been made available to us. It is harder to evaluate your ability to think beyond the permissible.

But this is our duty and such is our task. It may not come to us immediately. It is only when we take ourselves seriously to do the work and when we take our work seriously to understand what it is ultimately about, that the question of rigor feels less a burden and more a calling. Everything we do is about getting you to a point where you can see beyond the immediate context and connect Black thought–your thought–to a vision of freedom that transforms all of our lives. It starts with study. Unending study. And it continues with writing. Speaking a truth.



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