Ethos v. practice

It is up to you to decide by whom this conceptual language will be appreciated, notwithstanding the precedent established in these pages. An effective love letter, after all, must be written in the terms of its lover’s desire. The fact that the third sentence has been reached leaves me optimistic, already altering a link between the idea of Williams and a received navigational framework. By such a link, I mean to suggest that, while the ethos of the “liberal arts” cites inclusivity, its practice is inherited from an exclusive past and the unbalanced configuration of national norms and international relations.

I believe that the ethos of the College is at a distance from its practice, which excludes those deprived of an inheritance. Symptomatic of such distance, though less recognizable than the campus topography, is the construction of social and political life so that certain ways of thinking and doing are disabled. And as resistance to disability is registered affectively, administrators are quick to prescribe therapy and medication. With surprising success, an individual pathology is created in lieu of a proper nod to the elephant in the room. At a distance from Previews, the animal roams freely from Thompson Chapel to Chapin.

What makes the College so compelling, however, is that the distance between ethos and practice can never be fully hidden. One can take recourse to the former in challenging the latter. Such a gesture involves the creation of social and political discourses that reconfigure the possibilities of what is thinkable and doable. What might it mean, for instance, to conjure an Islamic shrine in the middle of campus or to participate in a solution with which one might disagree to a political crisis? With what language do we speak of a community engendered by a Cairene salon in the valley of the Berkshires or by the redrawing of boundaries between the public and the private? And what happens when the regularized space of the classroom, where relations of power are produced and propagated, confronts the matrices of desire that always exceed it?

I love Williams because the beauty of its ethos compels me to question the exclusivity of its practice. And to complement its ethos, the College provides the proper apparatus, a faculty and staff the specialness of which still remains understated, the resources to realize one’s singular vision, and a list in the Record to inspire one’s own. It is simply a matter of figuring where the purple udders are hidden, how they are milked and of finding new stretches of pasture. I noted once, while walking past Tunnel City in the evening, a stream of white between the slabs of cement in the sidewalk, as if the ground itself, unsure of itself, was seeping. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I find refuge in dinners and coffees and afternoon kisses, in smiles pressed against smiles where no words were needed.

This letter, then, is for those to whom I’ve yet to express gratitude; to the beautiful people at Goodrich in the morning and to the words we left unstated; to the espresso by the shot, the kilo and the gift card; to the large yellow gift in the sky, a recent addition, and to the testifying dandelions; and to those who subsume the thrust of these words by way of a comforting reason. I write to you on the basis of hope that some future might bring us together, that this vast desire might sometime be consummated.

Until then, I labor in the confession of love, awaiting you, as I cultivate pleasure in the labor of waiting.

Abdullah Awad ’13 is a literary studies major from Amman, Jordan. He lives on Moorland St.

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