Glare of Disdain

I was perusing the New York Times Book section this morning, and I came across a marvelous comic, “Glare of Disdain,” by Gene Luen Yang, an American writer of comics and graphic novels. I think the issues it raises are perfect for our course. It focuses on the power of stories in books to act as windows into people from other cultures.  Let me know what you think in the comments. Can you see any connection to our course? What do you think about the writer’s point?

Glair of disdain

Zero is the best!

Today we fought the Battle of C/I Kickball.

In the post-tourney photo, the professors of the four participating first-year seminars–Duffey, Flemming, Hoops, and Findley–held up fingers to indicate their groups placement on the Olympic podium of honor.


As is evident, Flemming holds up a single finger, Hoops two, Findley three, and your humble servant, Professor Duffey, I am holding up no fingers at all. My clenched fist, with no fingers raised, signifies zero.

Lorenz Oken (1779-1851)

I want to argue here that we should take great pride in our ZERO.

All hail to ZERO, I would say, or even…

Hail, the conquering…ZERO….


Harvard mathematician Robert Kaplan, in his excellent 1999 study (Oxford UP), The Nothing that Is: A Natural History of Zero, states that “If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world” (1). Kaplan presents a fascinating, multifaceted paean to the power and unique majesty of ZERO, a power and majesty that has been celebrated by the greatest minds through the ages. Samuel Beckett asked, “Better than nothing? How can that be?” (Kaplan, 195) Lorenz Oken (1779-1851), German naturalist, botanist, biologist, and ornithologist, positively rhapsodized about zero: “Zero is the primary and eternal act, endlessly positing itself….God is zero, and zero is infinite intensity” (201). In fact, philosopher Jacob Needleman, author of The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders (Putnam, 2002) believes that “America is the land of zero….Start from zero, we start from nothing. That is the idea of America” (Kaplan, 202).

In Kickball, then, were are, my Duffey mentees, zero.  But let us take pride in our zero-ness.

Let us lift high the banner of zero and give zero its rightful place of honor and praise, higher certainly than more pedestrian integers such as “one,” “two,” and “three.”

Good job on the kickball tournament.  It was super fun!!