This word has been bouncing around in my grey matter for a few weeks. Not because I self identify, but more that I’ve read the word in several different sources.

Most recently in an article in “The Atlantic Monthly”, by Agnes Callard. She is probably someone that I should know, or at least heard of, but I’m clueless. Agnes’s article was titled, “A Philosopher Gets Fed Up With Profundity, There are better ways to communicate.” The graphic was three repeating words, chiseled in stone…”Yada, Yada, Yada”

I think for most people it was a quick way of dismissing something that was said or written. A sarcastic response to wordy communication perhaps. I don’t know if many people would know that “Yada” is Hebrew, meaning “to know.”

So that “Yada, Yada, Yada” might still be sarcastic, but more pointedly, suggesting that you might “know too much”. Interestingly, the Hebrew could also imply that Yada is to know carnally.

The article begins with a warning from her Phd. advisor to not call herself a philosopher once she receives her doctorate. Better that she identifies herself as someone who reads philosophy. The reasoning is that she might be expected to be profound!

Apparently there had been a profile of Agnes that was based upon an interview, and not upon her written perceptions of philosophy. The reviewers of the profile responded that she was boring, banal, and unremarkable. And certainly not profound!

The expectation of profundity from a philosopher was not met.

I am not a philosopher, although I have been philosophical at times. For many years I was paid to profess. The teachers Union actually pushed a policy allowing the college district to call us “professors” without the usual requirement of the rigorous academic structure.

The problem with titles is that sometimes it is just a title, without the reenforcing background.

Most of the reenforcing background is actual work, and work that is decades long. Being “philosophical” on a lost summer day in 1969, does not qualify a person as a philosopher. It takes time and effort. Calling oneself a professor because of a labor policy is problematic.

How to be profound. It does not come with a title. It comes from the opinion of others, and not self identification. Multiple opinions of others, over a period of time. In addition, the opinions are from individuals that have a solid understanding of what “profound” means. A steep requirement.

Should one even desire to be profound? In one sense it is a label that establishes a “distance”. You can’t be close to a profound person. You might ask them for an opinion, you might sit quietly in a garden with them. It might be dangerous to be close to a profound person, they might parse your soul, judge you, and find you wanting.

I like the idea of “occasional profundity”. It would be every now and then, and definitely not on call. There’s a dramatic quality of not being able to be profound consistently.

I’m waiting…

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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