Monday, March 10, 2008

Escaping apathy

One of the traps of academia is the development of apathy with respect to things that we really care about.

We start studying a subject because it interests us or because we believe that we can benefit from understanding the subject better. We start from a place of caring and belief in the significance of what we study.

But the months and years can be wearing, as can the heavy prose of the academic world--so careful, always, to precisely define exactly what is intended, with careful attention to all the possible variations and strengths and weaknesses of the idea, in order to ensure optimal understanding and to deflect debate.

We see problems where we once saw possibilities. We are deadened, unable to feel the motivation that got us going, and which is probably still present underneath the detritus of academe.

I had a conversation today with a woman who was apathetic about her paper on tone in writing. She disliked the topic, she said. But she was a writer, and by reframing that paper about tone in terms of it serving as a tool by which to work on her own writing, she felt more interest and enthusiasm for the project. Sure, it may not be the written project she finds most exciting, but at least there is an avenue by which the deadening apathy is escaped and a sense of purpose given to the project.

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