Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Centers Hold


"Things fall apart," Yeats famously wrote, "the center cannot hold." I always found "things fall apart" to be a refreshingly imprecise bit of phrasing.

Yeats's poem came to mind yesterday as I passed a business-sign for Neovita, which describes itself as a "Foot Comfort Center." I'm not sure what they do in there, but I had visions of all feet being treated like Roman emperors, bathed, massaged, entertained, read to. Maybe there are foot-therapists on duty to whom the feet can talk about their problems--nightmares about blisters, that traumatic hang-nail in childhood, impossible expectations placed on the feet by the parental Body.

"Center" is a great all-purpose moniker. Think-tanks and thinly veiled political shops, which seem to have proliferated in the last 20 years, like the term. The Center for Strategic This and That, the Center for Family Something, etc.

I had a part in establishing two Writing Centers, or Centers for Writing Across the Curriculum. One basic idea behind them is that since writing happens in almost all disciplines, it should be taught in all disciplines and not seen merely as an "English" subject. The first one I worked at was in a temporary building on one edge of campus, so it really wasn't in the center of much. The other one, however, is pretty much centrally located on campus.

I hope Periphery catches on at some point. The Periphery for Strategic Studies, The Periphery for American Family Values. These might be interesting think tanks, featuring people who are on the outside looking in and therefore in possession of valuable perspective. In Yeats's terms, they'd be falcons who couldn't hear the falconer, but maybe they could hear other important stuff, and who says falconers know everything? The falcon does all the work, after all. Just ask the Center, I mean the Periphery, for International Falcon Studies.
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