пятница, апреля 22, 2016

How Did I Get Here?

A while ago, a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article that had the following illustration:

My friend wondered whether the same applies to professors. While I suppose that most professors also possess a rather troubling combination of the two attributes (but with little to no art to arise as a result of said combination), the logical question ensuing from this realization is whether I, as an aspiring-actual faculty member, possess any such thing as "Absolute Narcissism" in significant amounts. And the answer, if I may be allowed to be modest, self-effacing, and cripplingly self-doubtful, is no.

  • I don't go around saying that my dissertation will completely change my rather small field once it comes out in book form.
  • I don't tell students in my classes that they make up a small privileged group of, well, students in my classes.
  • If someone shoots down an idea I present in the classroom or at some "scholarly" discussion, I usually clarify (not very well) my position, but don't make a substantial effort to convince my counterpart that I am right or that my point of view is worth pondering.

Actually, the last one might fall under the category of borderline "narcissism" in a rather perverse way: I guess I could interpret this instance as "I know I am right, and I don't care whether you agree because my view is the only that counts to me." I am not saying I actually think such things; the outcome is always more along the lines of "crippling self-doubt," but, as this example demonstrates, the two spheres are indeed closer than we may think.

But the answer, ultimately, is that, despite apparent efforts to make the work of the university more integrated in the world at large, success in academia is still measured, to a great extent, by how effectively one's narcissism (tempered by self-doubt in a carrot-and-stick dialectic) translates into fruits of research and teaching. And - here comes the crippling self-doubt again - I'm not sure if I can carry out any research - or teaching, for that matter - without the belief that what I am doing will make a difference to other people besides me. And, since my research makes little difference even to myself, this just brings me back to the point at which I have little motivation to start, or continue what I already started.   

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