Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tempered

While I assume (deperately hope?) that this masters program is an excellent learning experience, for the next month I fear I'll be walking the fine line between insanity and insomnia. It is certainly a trial by fire, for me, at least. But intellectual fire-trials aren't like others. Instead of walking hot coals or enduring a blast furnace, leaping over bonfires or holding my hand in boiling water, I feel like I'm being asked to make charcoal. When people made charcoal, they stacked a huge pile of logs - 3 cord of wood or so (a long winter's worth of wood in a drafty house). Then they smother it with dirt (shovelled on by hand), and light it on fire - for a very slow burn. One week later, they dig back the dirt and pull out the charcoal, which, given the amount of wood consumed, is a mere fraction of what you start off with.

Forget separating the wheat from the chaff - I am convinced that academia is about assembling, arranging, and then consuming by fire vast amounts of information, to collect in the end the few blackened nuggets of compressed information that may remain.

No wonder I sometimes feel like I'm on the verge of resembling this broken pane of tempered glass that I saw at the bus stop today:

No comments: