For the past four years, I been explicitly working on one project. The project, my dissertation, has developed sporadically and in unexpected ways. My topic has changed radically in four years; it is an unrecognizable distant relative. I’m rather happy with that as where I began was taking me in directions I did not really wish to venture (like, for example, away from STS–and that’s a big tent–and toward a more strictly-Education focus).
I still feel pulled by articles about online education, how it can and should be approached and utilized. I also recognize the tugging on my imagination whenever I hear about or consider STS pedagogy. I want to write, elaborate upon, explore, and, hopefully, offer insights into those areas. No one has told me I cannot. Yet I demure, knowing that I abandoned those paths once. I must have had decent reasons.
I did. I still do. Those topics, particularly the latter, are not resolving themselves. Sufficiently intelligent people are working on them, and if I had anything to offer, I would have produced it already. I have not.
This past year I left the place I have lived the longest in my life. In that I still had to finish the dissertation, I never really escaped. My weekly/monthly emails traveled back there even as I did not. My ideas, developed in my dissertation and in that town, are tethered there still. After so long working on one thing, and not finishing it, some rightly thought I was abandoning the project, the ideas, the goal.
Looking back now, I think I needed to leave. Of course, I would say that. Indeed, I have said that. More than a time or two: after leaving Cali the first time, Flag, Oaxaca, and D.F. My relationships have term limits. Be they towns, people, or ideas, my relationships sputter after a few years. In no way do I mean to ‘passive voice’ that tendency: I know I am the one making them fail. Strangely, though, I am ok with that.
This topic matters to me now because I might have turned some proverbial corner. I’m still going to leave wherever I am in a limited number of years. I’m still going to flirt with other ideas and even career paths. My promiscuity in these areas, however, might be in the service of a larger, and still present, project. If I get this dissertation right, I’ll be working on it the rest of my life.
Though I will not make the hyperbolic, and simply false, claim that I have been working on some new philosophy, I think the ideas I have been struggling to explicate and understand do constitute a direction I can follow for a long time. It is flexible (read: vague) enough to encompass those intellectual mistresses I unceremoniously dropped some years ago, but it should also shelter the as yet unrealized thoughts I pursue down the road.
All that last sentence really means is that the work I have been doing in recent years is already changing my predilections and penchants: it influences what I read and how I think about what I have read. For one who trades in prose and ideas, such influence is consuming. I have inflicted it on myself. I am glad I have.