I've been thinking and talking about interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary projects over the past few days. Earlier in the week I bemoaned the unnecessary narrowness of some academic projects. (Maybe I was being uncharitable (bitter?) in this bemoaning.) I like writers and academics, thinkers, artists, who bring together a lot of different interests in their work - no matter how narrowly focused the work itself might actually be.
This came up in Wendell Berry's preface to The One-Straw Revolution: 'It is exactly because of such habitual expectations - because we have learned to expect people to be specialists and books to have only one subject - that we are in need of 'The One-Straw Revolution'.'
And I also read Michael Massing's NYRB piece this week on the best of political blogging; from this I got the idea of the blogger as a filter uniquely processing (and adding value to) multiple sources. Massing on Andrew Sullivan: 'But as a regular reading of his posts shows, his multiple links to a wide array of sources, processed through his idiosyncratic gay-Catholic-Thatcherite-turned-libertarian-radical mind, produces an engaging and original take on the world. A dramatic demonstration of this occured just after the Iranian elections...'
The necessity of bringing some disciplined (or multi-disciplined) thought and imagination to filter through all that one comes across is important. (David Dark has this great quote from Cornel West on his site at the moment: 'Piety ought to be inseparable from critical thinking'.) Equally important and pressing, I think, is the ability in thinking through all the different things one encounters to turn them into something else - a new piece of writing, a piece of art, a cartoon, a link on a blog, something. At least, I feel the need to do this a lot more systematically for myself.
My friend Richard asked what was wonderful about the gapingvoid quote from a couple of posts ago (in a way that reminded me of one of our teachers - but that is another story). The wonderful thing is that the author of the gapingvoid posts has in his cartoons a medium through which he can filter, synthesize, and think critically about the world, making a new new thing as he goes.