James Batcho, PhD | Updates Update
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Updates Update

CHIANG MAI. It’s a common entry for me at this point, after another six months of neglect, to apologize after failing to keep this Updates page… updated. This webhost I use, EverWeb, is not helping. Its blog capabilities are nonexistent, and I have to go through a series of workarounds just to post something. I’m hoping, within the next month or two, to migrate elsewhere, probably to WordPress finally. Then I plan to be an updating machine. But alas, we’re not there yet.

There are personal reasons as well. The year began with the news that my father passed away. Six months on, it still seems so… I don’t know, I don’t have adjectives. How is one to describe in a few words what it means for a son to lose a father, for me to lose my dad? His condition had been a slow, painful process for the whole family. It was a difficulty that could not be acknowledged through diagnoses and facts; it couldn’t even be admitted by everyone, least of whom my dad. And so to experience the unspeakable erosion, to see this great man fail to come to terms with his crumbling foundations, the structures he spent a lifetime building. To have it all dismantle as it did, slowly, brick by brick, but without him understanding that his bricks were being removed, and for the rest of us to have to dance around what no one really understood… for such a proud man, and for all of us who loved him… it was hard. I’ve written much about this personally, but I’ll keep those thoughts to myself.

A curious thing happened from my own efforts to come to terms. In my grief, and in my preparations for his service, I turned to Kierkegaard, a writer I had not read for many years. He was a favorite of mine during my undergrad years, but because of the directions my research and readings were going, he didn’t seem to have a place. But my dad was a spiritual and religious man and a lover of philosophy, and I thought I might find something there to express his life and our loss. I did. But the curious thing was that I became obsessed with Kierkegaard, with his radical faith, truly the most radical of philosophers because of his faith. And in the process I realized that this, this subjectivity, was the missing element of Malick’s cinema that I had left out of my book on him. I had abandoned the book in August last year, after I thought I had finished it and then realized it was not complete. Kierkegaard, the death of my father, brought me back to the book with a new focus and a new fervor. The Dane and Deleuze, normally considered oppositional in philosophy, were, through Malick, anything but. And just three weeks ago, I finished a draft. Now it really does feel finished. I feel as good as I think I can about it. One press has expressed an interest in it and is reading now. We shall see.

All this mad research I’ve been doing over the past year has been fruitful in other ways. I had one essay published at the beginning of the year in The New Soundtrack called “New Understandings in Hearing”; another co-authored work on Luis Buñuel and Wittgenstein is in review with Film-Philosophy. And I have another 12 essays in development. Developing those most ready for publication will be my mission for the rest of the year.

I also just accepted a job offer, teaching filmmaking. I need to keep those details hush for now until the visa paperwork gets finished. But I like what I see of this place so I’ll be glad to get all that sorted. And I’m excited about the prospect of teaching and being part of a university department again.

The other big event is I’ve become involved with an eco-community in Lombok, advising and planning some future workshops. Ecology has always been an interest of mine, but more recently, I came to realize how much deep ecology flows directly into my research on process, audibility, unseeing, interconnectedness—its vast transcendental network of activity. I believe as well that ecology will become a dominant field of study within the next 20-50 years, if not the dominant field, once politics restructures and fades away from this twisted new normal and back toward a little more sanity.

My experience in Lombok also led to another essay called “Deep Listenings, Deeper Soundings.” I read this at a workshop in Singapore in April. Not sure where this will run, but my dear community of Singapore schemers are planning something I think. Like so much of this entry, it’s another we shall see.

With luck, I’ll be able to update more on all three of these maybes I’ve mentioned here. No really…