- Three Cheers for the Hare that Did Not Stop Running to Take a Nap:In Celebration of the Life of Benedict Anderson
When I think of Ben Anderson, I often think of one of Aesop’s fables, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Yeap, it is the story about a slow-crawling tortoise and a fast-running hare, and the former beating the latter in a race because the hare was so confident of winning and took a nap midway through the race. There is a critical difference, though, between the hare of the fable and Ben: Ben never stopped running! Being not exactly a hare in the academic race, I used to ruefully mutter to myself how unfair it was that this hare did not want to take a nap even after his retirement, thereby not giving the tortoise the [End Page 178] slightest chance of threatening, let alone beating, him. There came a time, however, when even Ben the hare finally had to stop running . . . to rest . . . Oops, I should not go too fast in telling my story about Ben.
By way of self-introduction, let me explain first how I got to know Ben. I went to Cornell University in the fall of 1968 to study sociology and Southeast Asian studies, and had Ben as an academic advisor in the latter field. Ben got his PhD in 1967, a year before my arrival at Cornell, and had just been appointed as a young assistant professor in the Department of Government. Being the youngest and newest faculty member, he was properly dressed in tie and jacket when I went to see him for the first time at his office. It was also the time when old-fashioned propriety still reigned on American college campuses. Girls’ dorms and boys’ dorms for graduate students had been separate at Cornell until their “integration” a couple of years prior to my arrival, and students at Law School and Business School went to classes in tie and jacket. In any case, when Ben turned around to get some papers behind him, I noticed there was something not proper in his attire. His shirttail was sticking out from under the end of his jacket. Seeing that, I secretly gave a smile of approval and thought I could get along with this guy nicely. Indeed, get along nicely we did for all the years after our first encounter.
I went to West Sumatra in Indonesia in early 1972 for fieldwork. Ben was to visit me there as he had never been to the land of Minangkabau people; but he was detained at the Jakarta airport and “famously” expelled as all of us know. After finishing my fieldwork, I got back to the United States in late 1974. The Ben I knew in 1968 and the Ben I saw in 1974 were different. In 1968 he was in tie and jacket. In 1974 he was all in blue jeans. His favorite was denim overall. Can you imagine Ben in denim overall? In winter he wore a denim jacket with thick lining, the kind worn by cowboys of the Marlboro Country. I suspected he must have been having a mid-life crisis or something and groping for a new identity. Pablo Picasso went through the Blue period, then the Rose period, and eventually through cubism. Ben in 1968 was in the period of tie and jacket. In 1974 he was in the period of jeans. Can you guess what his later period was? Yes, it was the period of T-shirt, short pants, and sandals with his sweet and often mischievous smiles (fig. 1).
When I got back to Cornell from fieldwork, my scholarship was about to end, and Ben kindly took me in as a free lodger at his house in Freeville outside Ithaca. During my stay at his house there were a few more occasional “lodgers,” such as one of his colleagues who was divorced from his wife and [End Page 179]
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even a collie (!) whose owner moved from Cornell...