It made no difference to Dr. Crusty whether the students' grievances actually involved money; as far as he was concerned, there were two kinds of people in the world: those who valued the life of the mind, and those who were money-grubbers. The fact that his own Life of the Mind had been underwritten first by family money and then by a job he'd slid into during the boom hiring years of the 1960s (and had somehow managed to keep and get tenured at)--and that it might be awfully hard to live The Life of the Mind when worried about paying the gas bill or getting evicted--never seemed to occur to him.
Within the union, then, "the life of the mind" became shorthand for the position of those who Just Didn't Get It, and I still use the phrase today, usually in sentences that begin "So I guess I'm living the life of the mind, and shit, but--" and then conclude with a complaint. Sometimes it's about overwork, or another encounter with a bald-faced plagiarist, but usually it's about money.
So when I found out this week that I'd been awarded two of the four short-term external fellowships I'd applied for, the progress of my reactions went something like this:
Now, it's true that some of that money will, in effect, just be helping me to pay for those conferences that my departmental budget doesn't cover--and that the rest will quickly disappear into the black hole that is the debt I incurred while in graduate school--but for at least a few minutes I considered talking about the Life of the Mind with a little more respect.
1. Oh thank God. I wouldn't have been able to face my recommenders if I hadn't gotten something (the first letter I'd received had been a rejection, and many weeks elapsed before I heard from the other institutions).
2. Ooh, it'll be fun to get back in some archives.
3. Hey, I have a 12-month salary. And these awards are on top of that? I totally don't need this much to rent a sublet in X City or Y City. Holy shit--that's like THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS!