Gordon Marino Q&A on the Intersection of Boxing & Philosophy
Only the most imaginative fiction writer could have invented the life of Gordon Marino. As you can see from the terrific profile in Minnesota’s Pioneer Press, “Meet the boxing philosopher of Northfield’s St. Olaf College,” and on his bio page, Marino exemplifies the concept of living in more than one world. His main work is as professor of philosophy and director of the Hong Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College. (I mentioned him and a piece he wrote for The New York Times in my May 21st post about the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Danish philosopher-theologian Søren Kierkegaard.)
But Marino is also a prolific freelance writer and author/editor, and the boxing correspondent of The Wall Street Journal. He also coaches and trains boxers, and was a former assistant football coach at St. Olaf. Here is my Q&A with him on how his different worlds intersect:
Your work is not only highly eclectic, but you are also quite prolific. Do you consciously/formally manage your time among your various work duties and non-work activities?
Class, coaching, and assignments with the Wall Street Journal tend to determine the broad outlines of my schedule. I try to find an hour every day to get some scribbling in but am not always successful. On the one hand, I think of writing as an art, which like painting one has to practice. On the other, I want to make sure that I really have something to say – one specific point. My mentor, Philip Rieff, used to give me this sobering warning all the time- “everyone is an author in search of a topic.” In other words, wants to be heard, to “find their voice” even if they really don’t have anything to say.
What are the commonalities among philosophy (especially Kierkegaard), teaching, writing, editing, running an academic library/special collection, coaching & boxing (and other sports you have been involved in)?
The commonalities between boxing and philosophy are many. Though most outsiders do not recognize it, philosophy is a combative sport. Arguments or reading of texts that you might have spent years working on are probed and tested by colleagues who are not always friendly. I have often joked that I would prefer a punch in the snoot to some of the shots that you can take when you deliver a paper at a conference.
Being a member of the Socrates guild means being committed to a life of non-narcissistic self-examination, to getting to know yourself. And boxing is a great vehicle of self knowledge. In the ring, you soon come to know your anger and your fear, as well as how far you are willing to go in your effort to succeed.
For the non-specialist, can you provide some of the highlights from the Seventh International Kierkegaard Conference; and also can you provide a capsule description of the forthcoming book you edited, The Quotable Kierkegaard?
The conference was a great success. There were 170 people at the opening dinner and participants from every corner of the globe. Bruce Kirmmse provided the plenary address and spoke with great passion and insight about some of the discoveries he had made in the course of editing the new complete English translation of Kierkegaard’s Journals and Notebooks (Princeton University Press). One thing that struck me is that people come to the conference and the library more for the community and friendships than for any information that might receive in a talk or book.
As for the soon to be released The Quotable Kierkegaard (Princeton), there were many occasions in which I would hit a quote and just chuck the book across the room in pure awe. Kierkegaard was a Gallileo of the inner world and could hit the depths of the human psyche in a mere line or two. But here is a quirky quote that is one of my all time favorites:
“The majority of men… live and die under the impression that life is simply a matter of understanding more and more, and that if it were granted to them to live longer, that life would continue to be one long continuous growth in understanding. How many of them ever experience the maturity of discovering that there comes a critical moment where everything is reversed, after which the point becomes to understand more and more that there is something which cannot be understood.” Dru 1938 Journals entry 962 p. 330; Hong Journals and Papers vol. L-R entry 3567 Pap. X1 A 679