Andrew Joseph Pegoda (@) is a PhD student in history at the University of Houston (full biography at the end). He maintains a blog where he writes about history, racism, slavery, culture, the media, education, pedagogy, and writing. Andrew has kindly shared his reflections on being critical of the world, which stems from his high expectations; but, he remains capable of appreciate beauty in the world.
“Recognizing Beauty: Why I Am Critical and Have High Expectations,” by Andrew Joseph Pegoda
For an hour yesterday I was laying on my stomach with my arms stretched out and holding perfectly still inside a 3 million dollar MRI machine at M.D. Anderson located in a multi-billion (trillion?) dollar complex in the Medical Center located in Houston, Texas, in the United States, on this pale blue dot. I’ll be in this same machine next Friday, too.
While I was inside this machine, I was thinking about how absolutely incredible it is that we have such technology, made possible by science and research. That I’m inside a machine that can–to an almost perfect degree–measure and map everything in the area being scanned, my left hand in this case. That I have insurance that will cover this can and insurance to cover whatever needs to be done. And that the science exists to easily cure all kinds of things. And this made me think about the dozens of MRIs I have had the past several years, and the brain surgery, the heart/lung/chest surgery, the pelvis surgery, the growth hormone shots I took for a decade, and so much more. Science and doctors perform miracles all the time, and this is beautiful.
And this got me to thinking about how I am occasionally criticized for being too critical of the United States and focusing too much on the racism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgenderism, ablebodiedism, and anti-intellectualism, for example, that bother me so much and personally affect everyone. All of this is true and needs attention, much attention. I focus on the “bad things” in part because too few do. As long as I am pointedly asked: why do you focus on “so and so,” such a focus in necessary; however, this is not to say, I do not recognize the beauty that is in the world.
The fact that humans have mastered and understand, use, and reproduce complex systems of signs, symbols, and sounds to produce what we call language and meaning is beautiful and fascinating. That we can study the ambiguities of all of this through semiotics is a high point of human civilization.
And that I (and many others) can use this language on computers to write to world-wide audiences is a beautiful and unthinkable act looking at the scope of history.
And then I think about all of the wonderful music that is available and all of the associated special effects.
And I think about all of the other authors and texts with which this performance and ones like it that are in dialogue with each other. (For example, See Transformative Authors and Texts – One Scholar’s List.)
And we mustn’t forget to mention the phenomenal Meryl Streep. The accomplishments of Oprah Winfrey (the only Black billionaire in the United States and one of nine in the World!). Or this family and their grassroots videos and YouTube channel.
And so much more. Just by being alive and being able to read this article, which requires electricity and a computer and all kinds of specialized memorization, makes you among the wealthiest, richest, luckiest, most talented/accomplished individuals who has ever taken a breath.
I also think about how incredibly lucky I am to have such a sweet, loving, incredibly smart and beautiful “partner in crime,” the one and only Dr. Trevor Lovejoy Pegoda:
So I hope that people can see that I am professionally critical of our society’s and world’s problems because I have high expectations and so much hope. We have so much potential for beauty. We need to use it for good, to help others. Helping and loving others, celebrating achievements, and always demanding the best and sharing everything, that’s what life is about.
Andrew Joseph Pegoda is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) and Lecturer at the University of Houston in the Department of History. He is also a part-time instructor of History at Alvin Community College, where he teaches Texas History, United States History, and African American History. He is specializing in U.S. History using a Cultural Studies methodology with a focus on social and political minorities (namely those racialized as African American or gendered as female), cultural representations, and on the paradoxes between the proclaimed equality for all and actual inequality for many. He is also interested in digital history and digital humanities.