As frustrated as I can get with the “academy” (and I can get very frustrated), I have to acknowledge that all of my academic training has proven useful in encouraging one particular obsession habit: researching. Regarding researching, I can openly admit that I am, in fact, a bit of a compulsive. For example, rarely does a vegetable find its way from the produce section to my refrigerator without being first thoroughly considered and cross-referenced. An unsuspecting acquaintance casually mentions the salt content of a pot pie? To the books! Obscure symbols on bumper stickers get the full treatment, sans MLA formatted works cited page (unless deemed absolutely necessary). And after an exhaustive and comprehensive investigation, I went for a run.

This blog is, indeed, a collection of one year of mental meanderings that occasionally resulted in full-on-yet-inconsistent pursuits. Yoga, sailing, the Italian language, plant-based foods, all attempted after extensive scrutiny and enough information-gathering to fill multiple 3-inch binders. (One binder per subject, of course, with appropriate tabs and page protectors). Researching has become, quite definitely and unstoppably, second nature.

I tend to credit the institution of higher education for this addiction behavior, but really my penchant for informed inquiry started at a much younger age. As one of a dwindling generation of folks who grew up with significant shelf space devoted to the now only-available-electronically Encyclopedia Britannica, I often posed a random query about, say, yaks, only to be promptly directed by my mother to “look it up,” which I did. (The Tibetan work “yak” refers only to the male of the species as the female is called a “dri” or “nak,” btw).

The post-Britannica era being ripe with opportunities to quickly gather information on the positively obscure from almost any location, “looking it up” became an unavoidable and wildly convenient pattern, eventually and intensely aided by my accrual of a laptop and smartphone. While I remain a bit of a holdout with most technology, and particularly with social networking, I cannot deny the functionality of the online search. For individuals with my condition concern, this wi-fi wonderland eliminates excuses for knowing nothing when, in fact, the problem should be “knowing” too much after sifting through the swaths of information possible to know.

I jest about the degree to which information-finding has “become me,” but I do maintain that the present historical era increases the responsibility on each individual to find things out. While the amount of available information is not even remotely equal to the amount of viable, useful information, a little source analysis and comparison can most often lead to usable pieces of knowledge. (I have found the truth in this idea most timely as I am in the position of meeting with various doctors quite often.)

Alas, and as I remind my students, access does not guarantee use. Knowledge does not guarantee action.

After years of academia, I have become a master at compiling resources while, like all good academics, doing little with the information beyond simply knowing it. Such seems to be the sad case for many of the pursuits in this blog. As much as I now “know” about my multiple endeavors, I have “done” very little. I have found repose in the comforting embrace of research, developing a smugness from the knowledge I have accumulated while nonchalantly ignoring the demands of action. There is, I believe, a balance that I am sorely lacking.

So, in an effort to pop the bubble of intellectual ego, I recommit to “doing,” not just “learning.”

(In truth, this renewed motivation could be founded on a desire to do anything but grade the mountain of student papers on my desk, but I am willing to take that risk.)


About these ads