Formality has never been a strong suit of mine. My essays, rather than suffer from the usual highfalutin fodder that most writers pride themselves on, tend to instead brim with wild metaphors and childish comparisons. Most of them are even littered with jokes here and there. It’s a disease of sorts: the inability to be completely serious even during the worst of times.
Often, the results are disastrous. I can point to numerous occasions where my jokes were not invited nor was my otherwise jocular nature appreciated. Take the example where my brother vomited in the car because he was sick, and instead of asking if he was alright, I watched his vomit projectile seep into his seat and in the essence of comedic timing, I said, “Are you going to finish that soup or what?”
I am not sure if my upbringing is to blame. My parents were raised in communist Poland, so they reciprocated what they knew: stringent rules and regulations which would eventually fail. Maybe, then, like the USSR, I can only blame democracy. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s what caused communism anyways.
With my lighthearted attitude, I often weasel myself into different quagmires only to joke myself out of them. My dad, who was angered that I wasn’t taking things seriously when I was younger, always told me that there was a time and place for everything. And some days, he muffled through a fence of teeth, there isn’t a time for a joke. I disagreed, though. He told me I’d understand when I was older. I told him that maybe he would too.
Fifteen years later, and still I find myself tooting the old horn. I’ve learned one thing though: joking is impossibly serious. Each joke carries the weight of the world on its punchlines. If the joke fails, it crashes. If it succeeds, though, it’s nothing short of a riot. This is because there is always some truth in every joke and that’s why we find them funny. Hell. Jokes are the only reason we haven’t blown ourselves to hell and high water yet.
In jest then, I wrote a bomb of a cover letter for the course 2A06 Western Thought. It was one that I wished to be granted a TAship in and was unfortunately declined. One can read what I said below, and they will probably realize why I was rejected. I’m only as good as my word, and even those fail me some days. This was one of those days.
Now do not think I am trying to adulate myself in anyway. I mean, I didn’t even get the job. Nor do I post it here to showboat my writing prowess, if I even have any. If you read it, you’ll realize I do anything but. Instead, I post it here in hopes that people will understand that when I joke, especially in something accordingly formal, I do so with a purpose – and if someone ever understands that purpose, it is no longer a joke. Instead, it is a very, very serious thing.
Dear Dr. Greenspan,
Please realize that this is not an ordinary cover letter. I will neither cushion myself nor laud the course itself. Certainly such shenanigans would help. But if I have learned anything from the 2A06, it’s that not everything that has evolved from Western Civilization is necessarily good, resumes and superfluous compliments being among the worst.
That aside, I’ll be sparse. Nothing is gained from long-windedness. So, I will not pepper my sentences with poignant Nietzschean aphorisms. Nor will I construct them in a socially acceptable manner, or the lack thereof, like Rousseau. I’ll be Paine-fully honest, for the common sense and rights of men and professors alike.
While it is often the case that in philosophy very few are truthful about the truth and others are skeptical even about that, I’ll grind my teeth and come out and say it: I didn’t go to class very often. Maybe you, Dr. Greenspan, already knew this. Perhaps you didn’t. Regardless, I promised honesty, so I’ll be courageous and give it to you in all its forms. Another form of it is that I learned the most I have ever in my life by not going to class.
Certainly this seems paradoxical. I should clarify that my absence was never meant in any form of disrespect. I consider you among the most cerebral, eclectic and lively professors I have had the honour of meeting. Instead, I did it because rather than listening to students discuss polemic and complex topics on nothing more than a brief synopsis or snippet of a text – and some blabbering on and on about even less than that – I felt I had to be immersed in the works themselves. I had to have my fingers tap dancing on the spine of On the Genealogy of Morals. I had to swim through the lucidity of Erasmus, the lack thereof in Freud. I had to flip through the pages of Summa Theologica, contrast it all with Augustine’s City of God. In short, I had a carnivorous lust for the development of Western Civilization, and instead of participating in how Western Civilization has constructed its various pedagogies, I had to go to the sources, the texts, the treatises, and see how it was before it all: before the course, before myself, and before Western Civilization could ever be described as such.
Now I’m probably supposed to yak on and on about how I’d be a great TA and I probably should. I could tell you that I write with the penmanship of a Victorian poet or that I could list off all of the tenants of Calvinism. But I don’t and I can’t; I don’t think I was ever predestined to do either.
Instead, I hope that these words and my resume are a testament to my ability, as are my achievements in 2A06 itself, such as my exam mark, my essays, my individual test scores, or my mark in the course as a whole. To that end, I also work for both the Silhouette and Incite, where I write and edit pithy articles for hire. If qualifications were ever a worry, rest assured – I may not be a naturalist like Darwin or a physicist like Einstein, but I have leafed through both The Origins of Species and the papers on General Relativity, and so, one could observe that my fingertips are riddled with paper cuts, evidence of the true sacrifice of a scholar.
If more proof is needed though, I should say that most of my best friends are dead old men who argued about how many angels could fit on a pin. It’s a one sided conversation most of the time.
In the end, I should tell you that no matter what I have read, I am applying because I hope to continue my passion for Western Civilization with the people that compose its being. Texts are listless. They do not talk. They do not feel. But humans – humans are the reason why texts were written in the first place. To teach, to learn, to help educate. They were written by humans for humans. Even if I do the impossible task of reading all the texts that comprise Western Thought, it would be irrelevant without others. Without sharing. So, I want to share with the humans that make sharing – and everything else in Western Civilization – worthwhile.
And that is why, dear reader, I shared this with you. Just kidding.