I was born in the midwest, into a working-class family. I was a smart and kind kid, who really believed in America. My father’s work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons moved me around a lot as a child. In small-town America and the suburban south, I witnessed first-hand the struggle of friends and family in the land of opportunity, although I did not know that was what I was seeing. High school did not help. College was supposed to alleviate my confusion but instead, it deepened it. I attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and struggled to understand anything. I was eclectic and didn’t declare a major for the first three semesters, eventually settling on cinema and photography with a creative writing minor.
Years of frustration with academia and an artistic disillusionment left me drifting. I got married (a mistake) and moved half-way across the country to Philadelphia (not a mistake). I worked in my field, mostly making commercials, became even more disillusioned by the sheer lack of creativity in the film industry, and with the obtuse cultural lies they were telling. For steady work, I took a job as a projectionist in a movie theatre. For you kids, a projectionist strings up the films into the projectors between showings and generally makes sure the projectors are clean and watches you make-out in the back row from the booth window. That job afforded me a lot of time to read, and I did read. I read around eighty books a year, and not light-weight stuff either. I read Moby Dick, Das Kapital, and An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, each book approaching a thousand pages. I read everything, classics mostly at first, but eventually, I started reading more and more philosophy.
A few books really opened my eyes, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, sealed the coffin on my film career. I got into the Frankfort School, through Erich Fromm, then on Noam Chomsky, and a whole lot more. I was learning but didn’t know what to do with myself. Eventually, my wife and I decided to have children and I decided I would give academia another try. I went to Villanova’s liberal studies program, thinking I might want to try a degree in English. I sat in on an open house, where everyone sat around and unpacked J. M. Coetzee’s Disgraced using Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, and I knew instantly I was in the wrong place. I wanted to turn the class on its head. I want to unpack Anti-Oedipus using Disgraced. I mean, isn’t that what fiction is for, distilling the human condition so we can understand it. I had another kid instead.
Eventually, I landed in the Liberal Studies program at Villanova and then took a couple of philosophy courses with Walter Brogan and Gabriel Rockhill. It was heavier continental philosophy than I was used to but I managed to keep up. After a conversation with Dr. Brogan, I transferred to the philosophy program at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. There I finally found the academic atmosphere I had been looking for, going on a decade. I was in my mid-thirties at this point and my intellectual pursuits were finally taking off.
That’s when my marriage failed. My ex-wife and I had struggled since the beginning. I think we needed each other more than we ever really loved one another. We fell into a co-dependency to rival the relationship of “yes” to “no”. And just before I began my master’s thesis the bottom finally gave way. To be honest, we had both moved on. She had begun seeing someone else, and ironically, had set me up with that someone else’s wife. I don’t think she expected me to get the support I had lacked for many years from this someone else, but when I did, I went back to her and demanded a change in the structure of our relationship. She flatly refused, and I ended it. I had to drop out of school, without my master’s degree. Divorce in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, with a mad, vicious, possibly borderline soon-to-be ex-spouse, two young children you’re the primary parent of, and a house is a destabilizing and tiresome affair, where only the lawyers win.
But I didn’t stay down forever. My new partner’s marriage fell apart at the same time and she moved in. With her help, I got back to school and finished my degree. I started reading again, wrote an award-winning essay and began adjunct teaching. Who knows, one day maybe I’ll go back and get a doctorate. But right now I’m more interested in putting all the knowledge I do have to some good use. Currently, I am an adjunct professor of philosophy at several colleges around the Philadephia area and an active member of the Philly Socialists, the Democratic Socialists of America in both the Philadelphia and Delaware County chapters, and devoted blogger.
Contact me at Charlesmrupert78@gmail.com
View my CV here.
Charles M Rupert