(1) the ways in which humans document or represent their experiences through artistic expression;
(2) the fictive impulse: how humans use their imagination to represent the world around them through language, stories, music, literature, history, philosophy, science, art, religion, dance, tragedy, comedy, film, media, architecture, space, etc.
To represent myself, or my sense of the sacred, I would choose the above image.
Trees and trails. Leaves and Decay. Stillness and motion. This is a snapshot of Horner Park, which is located in the north side of Chicago, Illinois, where I spent hours running along trails as a young teen during cross-country practices with close friends at Lane Technical High School. I must have circled this path around the park hundreds of times.
Nature was my cathedral. Although I grew up Catholic, I found my sense of vitality and vigor in the staccato breaths and footsteps of long, endurance runs as a way to escape the challenges of home life. I would run over ten miles often during a midnight calm to slow down reality, to go at my own pace. I remember running from the gritty, gridded streets of Chicago (Winnemac Avenue) to the well-manicured lawns of nearby suburbs such as Evanston, Lincolnwood, and Skokie. I always craved the freedom of green, from grass to trees to hills. Running through radically different neighborhoods was not only a form of competition or exercise for me; it was a way of witnessing the changing subcultures and social classes every long block and stretch of buildings. I was exposed to the cruel and amusing sociology of urban landscapes without even knowing it.
School was my refuge. I learned that I was good at solving problems, doing math, and digesting knowledge from a range of disciplines from religious studies to mythology to poetry. I eventually landed at the University of Illinois, majored in Mathematics, and then migrated to northern California to the University of California at Berkeley when my parents moved out to San Diego. At UC Berkeley, I discovered the beauty and complexity of the Humanities and Social Sciences, where I was allured by the disciplines of Anthropology, Folklore, Sociology, History, Comparative Literature, Linguistics, and Religious Studies.
So I completed my degree in Mathematics and found that I enjoyed the study of people and their sacred traditions more than simply calculating integrals and proving theorems using the Axiom of Choice. I entered a tiny Masters program in Folklore at UC Berkeley (within Anthropology) under Alan Dundes (and visiting folks like Sabina Magliocco and Katherine Young) and eventually the University of Pennsylvania (where I was mentored by the likes of Regina Bendix and Leonard Primiano – whose compassion lifted me up during one of the most difficult times there), and encountered some of the most eclectic, smart, witty, and sharp people I have ever met. I studied all things “traditional.” Jokes, legends, proverbs, material culture, ritual, ethnography, religion, tourism, rhetoric, nationalism, orality, narrative theory – you name it. This program taught me just about everything I know today.
After fumbling around for a decade teaching mathematics and literature classes at UC Berkeley within summer outreach programs, I found my calling a community college instructor first at De Anza College, DVC, and then full-time at the College of Alameda and Berkeley City College. It is at Berkeley City College I finally learned to appreciate the value of teaching a range of students of different ages and backgrounds.
Call me a Therapeutic Catholic, a Cognitive Buddhist, an Irreverent Folklorist, an Intellectual Dismantler, or a Barefoot Historian. Once you delve into the alluring illusion of story, names and titles dissolve into colorful, dirty, golden paths of change and possibility.
Please feel free to contact me at the email address below if you have any further questions about the Folklore, Popular Culture, and Religious Studies strand of our Humanities program.
Dylan Eret, Ph.D.
Ph.D., Folklore & Folklife, University of Pennsylvania
M.A., Folklore, University of California at Berkeley
B.A., Mathematics, University of California at Berkeley