Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart


the important thing about comprehensive exams (from a Buddhist perspective) ~

There are a lot of things you expect to learn if you get a doctorate. Primarily, of course, your subject. But there are also things you don’t expect to learn. Like… well, what I realised yesterday in the shower (is that TMI?).

When I took my comprehensives, they were two Saturdays in a row. Writing. Most of the day. And you wrote the entire time. Even with the HUGE thermos of mocha cappuccino I took to mine, I barely took time to hit the bathroom next to the computer lab. Basically? You write for hours… And then? Well, you write some more. :)

And here’s the thing: because you’re writing for such a very long time, you become too tired to pretend. If you don’t like a topic (Aristotle, for instance), it comes out. You may be able to BS a short essay. Perhaps you can finesse an oral question. And if you have time to revise? You can go back and surgically excise the parts you think aren’t politic…:) But when you’ve been writing for 2 1/2 hours, and you begin a 2nd question, you don’t have much BS left. What you write is, pretty much, what you think.

This is both freeing and terrifying. On my exams, I learned that the incisive academic prose I prided myself on was ‘distinctive’ (as in lauded) by some faculty. It was ‘barely permissible’ by another.  My voice hadn’t shifted. My audience had.

This is not something I expected to learn from taking my comps. I expected to learn — and did — about research. About poetic craft. About poets, and the literary tradition, even about my 2ndary fields. But it never occurred to me that I’d learn something that would, as an old sensei  told me, ‘bloom long after the master had passed.’

Because it’s been years since I had my comprehensive exams. One of my dissertation committee died far too young, others have moved to unknown destinations. I don’t think of them often. But this piece of learning came back today, as I thought about my own students, and my own learning now.

We can only really be what we are. I can work to give back — write with my life? — what I have learned, what I know. But I can’t keep up BS — especially when it’s alien to who and what I am. It will fail me, ultimately. It’s a lesson I try to offer my students, but perhaps it will take them as long to learn as it did me. That all we really have is who we are…

Still: it’s not a bad lesson from a Ph.D., really ~

 



Previous Posts

generousity
My horoscope this week (and yes -- I do read it!) says I should be generous w/ friends & family. Give! it says. Both gifts & compassion. How fun is that! So -- I bought my sister a trinket as a hostess gi

posted 1:06:43pm Sep. 02, 2014 | read full post »

taking care of the heart's chariot
The heart rides around in a body. Consider the mind the charioteer. I'm not always a good caretaker of my chariot, this body I run around in. I do better some weeks than others, but I still don't rock this w hole health thing. I don't eat enough veggies, I know -- although I like them. I do eat a

posted 5:40:21pm Aug. 31, 2014 | read full post »

thunderheads, and big sky mind
Some days it's harder than usual to calm. To remember that the mind is really just a space where thoughts (& feelings) come & go. But this is the basis of my wisdom tradition, and I know it's true. So on

posted 2:30:30pm Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

What did George Fox say? or, the Quakers vs. the Puritans
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhsvqbCIaAs[/youtube] I've been thinking a lot lately, trying to make sense out of the craziness rampant in too many American city police departments. The newest idiocy is the story of a St. Paul, Minnesota man who was, basically, tased for sitting while bla

posted 6:21:56pm Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

FaceBook memes and gratitude
Right now on FB, my youngest sister has tagged the three of us other sisters to do the 'gratitude challenge.' In which for five days, you have to come up w/ three things a day for which you're grateful. Just thre

posted 2:24:40pm Aug. 26, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.