|Joe when he is not in Foggy Bottom.|
So everything that is unusual is outside of himself, since every morning he wakes up to himself, or at least very near himself. Therefore he is very interested in unusual things, like crime, deviance, taboo, and other people. This philosophy explains much of his life and peregrinations, including joining the Navy and coming to college a little later than most.
“I wasn’t ready for college when I was eighteen,” he says, chewing on an apple core. “Immaturity is one explanation, mostly my parents’, but the other is that I had this theory that experience was something more intangible and less occupying and labor-intensive.” He chews a little more on his apple and grants that this theory was somewhat flawed. “But flawed reasoning is the path to wisdom, I think. I mean, it took an apple like this one falling on Newton’s head for him to acquire wisdom, and it took two or three marriages for my parents.”
Also, the senior English and Creative Writing major’s philosophy led him to become the new blogger for the English Department. He sees it as an opportunity to meet unusual people and professors, the latter category of which he views as “definitely satisfying that criteria.” Mancinik has a taste for mordant wit, obviously, and sees humor and irony as the ultimate proof of God’s existence (along with the works of John Cheever and Saul Bellow). “How else could you explain the appeal of Lady Gaga and the Republican Party?” he jokes. (Joe prefers jazz, especially Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans, and Coltrane when he’s feeling more “cerebral.”)
His ambition is to become an educator, writer, thinker, gardener, and humanist. “Anything but business,” he says with disgust. “There’s nothing more ridiculous to me than paying someone to do something that you’re perfectly capable of doing yourself.” A quick glance at all of the canning materials, gardening tools, livestock, and analog calculators strewn around his cramped Foggy Bottom apartment will attest to that. It was difficult, in fact, to nail down exactly what was fantasy or dissimulation to him and what was reality. “All artists lie,” says Mancinik. “Just look at Hitchcock (the iconic film director) and his pranks. To them it’s more fun. To their spouses it’s another matter altogether.”
When asked about his military experience Joe quotes Fred Durst, of Limp Bizkit fame: “Being in the Navy was like being in prison.” Though Mancinik is quick to add that his military service gives him access to the GI Bill, which enables him to go to an outstanding private university like GW, relatively free of expense.
Joe is currently researching, in his off-time, the poetic link between William Shakespeare and Tupac Shakur. “Heaven is my judge/ Not I for love and duty/ But only seeming so/ For my peculiar ends// Only God can judge me…nobody else/ All you (expletive deleted) get out my business.” Of this research Mancinik says, “It’s been tedious. It really has. About the only thing that I can really argue convincingly to my professors is that (Shakespeare and Shakur) are dead.” He also likes college football.
Getting deeper, to what drives him, takes a little further investigation. He cites the murders in 2005 of two close friends as a life-changing experience. “That put things into perspective for me,” he says, indicating by his body language that he is being sincere now.
“Before (the murders) I was pretty content with reading for my own knowledge and avoiding anything too complicated. But when my friend and his wife were killed, I began reevaluating that approach. They were my friends, you know, even when I was an idiot, and I often was. And friendship is real, and intangible, and in a way sort of like the humanities.” Julie, his friend’s wife, was working on a B.A. at the time of her death and Mancinik sees her goal as part of his own. “I think sometimes,” he says, pausing for a moment. “I hope that my own pursuit of a degree can in some measure fulfill her hopes too.”
Mancinik’s love of language stems from its mystical ability to cause tears to fall, rearrange perspectives, eliminate prejudices, and conquer ignorance. So it is decidedly not something trivial to him. “Language, literature, are about life,” says Mancinik. “About its pettiness and absurdity and joy and wisdom.” He links this belief to his own choice of a major. “What could be more valuable than a course of studies in that?”
– By Joe Mancinik