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Friday, July 24, 2020

Growing Pains

I am having intellectual growing pains. I turn 60 in a month, so this might seem strange. Really, though, if you are not having growing pains at every stage or your career, you are not doing things right. For me it is an almost physical sensation of my brain expanding with new understanding. It is closely tied to music, since I'm working on music now. 

Now obviously these will be more pronounced or perceptible at certain times. At other times it will feel like a plateau, or a gradual increase in breadth or depth of knowledge. Looking back on grad school, I see the papers I wrote were very smart. I won't criticize them at all. I became an established scholar at a young age, so I was doing something right. 

Now, however, I am feeling my work getting even better, with a deeper knowledge and engagement with the subject matter. When I look at other people's work, I often notice that it does not have the qualities that I most value in my own work, but I respect what they are doing if is good enough. If I held everyone to my standard it would be lonely and frustrating to be in the field at all. When I do a tenure or full professor case, I just happily embrace the merits of the person. I've decided not to do any except in the cases where I can be 100% positive.  

I am not known for humility, but it comes through in a kind of methodological principle that states that there is always more that I don't know than what I do. So learning something new that I should have known before reminds me that there are other things I will learn tomorrow that I should have learned yesterday or ten years ago.  

1 comment:

Thomas Basbøll said...

Mayhewian humility. Tostian empathy. Lodestars.