Phenomenology is for Everybody

I have observed throughout my years of reading the Cynic editorial section that much of the complaints rendered against the University have consisted of some sort of consciousness of the enslavement to the totalizing roles that make up our identities.

Just last week for instance, there was an article entitled “Protest Schmoprest” which, in insinuating that all Vermonters were poor and therefore good students while all out-of-staters were wealthy and therefore lazy. For me, this piece epitomized the type of complaints that I have been reading about the UVM student body for four years now.

Certainly there are those who work very hard to cram themselves into labels-how else are we to know ourselves if not through the lens of how we think others view us?

The advice I would give therefore, to these editorialists who would advise that we avoid patchwork pants or that we disdain anyone making political arguments outside the library, is that rather than lamenting at the stereotypes themselves and the violence that their totalization renders on our identities as deep and free human beings, we simply realize and act upon our realization that such stereotypes are, in fact, incomplete in their very attempt at completeness.

In this, I am certainly not advocating that we perceive each other as potential hypocrites, but in a way, actually, I am. Better than hypocrisy, however, are words such as mystery, alterity, and infinity.

What these words invoke, as we encounter the other with dreads, the other in a frat, or the other from out of state, is not so much that maybe this other person does not buy organic, or that maybe they do not come from a wealthy background, but that all we can know is that we do not know.

Really, and in our own knowledge of this other person’s mystery and their potential for the Infinite, we find the assurance of our own inadequate potential liberating.

This inadequate perception is not only liberating for the other person, but for ourselves-in acknowledging that we do, most definitely, get much of our sense of identity from how others see us, we can also know that we are mystery to the other, that we have the potential for denying the totalizing stereotypes of hippie, protester, sorority girl, and the violence that they impose upon our freedom.

What I would say then, to all the hundreds of editorialists that have grieved over the empty conformity that plagues UVM, but yet who almost always assert that they have somehow graciously avoided, is not to write letters to the Cynic pointing out how others are shallow renewals of recycled fashions and ideas.

What I might suggest is that they change the ways in which they view these stereotypes, realize their inadequacy in the face of the other person that escapes their total understanding, and so greet the UVM community with an appreciation for the depth and the potential which it holds in each individual.