All through this past summer I've had my mind turned to the task of sorting out my future at the university. Do I return, and what direction would my research take? And throughout the summer, and long before I left school, I was stuck answering this question. On the one hand I was obviously interested in both the sorts of research questions that had come up over the year, and the freedom I was given in graduate school to explore them. On the other hand, I felt an immense pressure to make good use of my time and I was uneasy with how indirect or ineffectual the various research projects we had come up with seemed to be.
Here's my thinking. There are big troubles in the world. Big, planet-ending sorts of troubles and big species-ending troubles and big people-ending troubles. News of these troubles rakes at my brain and makes me angry and sad and upset. Responding to these troubles seems urgent. Not responding to them seems terribly sad. And so, I try to steer my life so I can be of some benefit to the world and respond to the troubles in it.
Of course, I'm a complex person and I'm not only interested in responding to these sorts of things. I'm also interested in extensible programming systems, how to capture data lineage in software workflows, and how different each millimeter feels as I roll my shoulders in the setu bandha asana, for example.
And so, I've been tugged between following interests of mine which are indirectly related to responding to urgent world issues (sure, if I'm doing yoga all the time I'll probably be a friendlier person to be around, and therefore of more benefit to the world) and doing things that are more directly related (growing food, for instance). I was at an impasse at the end of the winter term last year, so I left.
Over the past week I've given all of this some thought again. I've decided that the distinction between direct and indirect action is blurry at best, but what's clear is my intent. I've decided that even if my master's work doesn't have direct impact it doesn't preclude me from doing other work that does whilst I work on it. I've also decided that since I'm interested I might as well follow my nose since, like all academic research, it may have some unforseable impact in the future, or it may turn me on to more relevant research or work, or it just might equipment to better engage with the world. (Whatever that means.)
I'll also get the chance to inspire the people I work with by telling them idyllic stories of farm life; I'll be able to bring back some of the academic world to my hill billy farming friends; and I'll have three new classy letters to add to end of my name.
And that's why I'm here.
Stay tuned for more details on where my interests are taking me.
Notes from my graduate studies at the University of Toronto in the Department of Computer Science.
- ► 2010 (20)
- ► 2009 (70)