Sunday, April 23, 2006

Deep Thoughts by the Mole

I'll try to avoid a little Jack Handy-ism, but I was thinking about something today after watching an episode of "Six Feet Under" Season 2. It's the notion of living every day as though it's your last, or living life to the fullest. Many people would equate those two things (living fully = living like there's no tomorrow), but I don't personally agree with this. If I lived every day like it was my last (not even strictly in the literal sense, but just ideologically), I'd never get anything done. I certainly wouldn't be spending so much time planning classes in so much detail. And, I don't even mean this in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way! I actually don't know how I would live every day like it's the last...perhaps it's beause I've never had a life threatening experience (knock on wood).

I dated a guy one time who had the outlook that nothing happened after we died (which is a perfectly reasonable belief, it doesn't happen to be mine, but that's okay by me!), and so we should live every day to it's fullest. The thing is that he used this as an excuse to be incredibly self-indulgent and to avoid responsibility for his life. This dude was an extreme example (it didn't last long) - but every once in a while I think back to it. Even the Dutchman gets very upset when he thinks he's been wasting too many gorgeous days cooped up in the library doing work. I think he (perhaps more subconsciously than not) believes that he's frittering away beautiful summer days that he'll never get back. And, technically, he is - we're all on the finite plan (regardless of what we think happens afterward). It's an endless source of irritation for him that it never bothered me to work on my diss for days on end far away from the sunlight - but I always feel like there will be more summer days and that I want to do the work now and play later.

And I do end up playing - I don't endlessly put off enjoyment and I like to blow things off and go to the beach for the day as much as the next homo sapien. But I don't feel anxiety over "wasting" time doing work...I'm not saying this is a better way of being, it's just my experience. When I take a break it's usually because I feel like I deserve one and I've worked hard and now I'll take it...

This line of thinking reminds me a little tangentially of what my adivsor used to ask: "are you a mole or a giraffe?" By this she meant, "what kind of scholar do you tend to be?" A mole is someone who digs into (and perhaps becomes bogged down by) the facts and the details, etc. and has a harder time seeing the big picture - the larger significance of the project, etc. A giraffe, of course, is someone who's all about the big picture and has a hard time getting down to the nitty-gritty facts, plodding through the research, the archive, etc.

I'm a mole. And I think that maybe I'm a mole not just in my scholarship but in my life as well. And there's nothing wrong with being a mole or a giraffe - a mole might be really near-sighted and dig around in the ground (built for quick, discreet interventions, just like short little me!), but a giraffe might trip over something nasty before he sees it. One the other hand, the giraffe has a pretty damn good view.

I'll end this metaphor here, but it got me pondering. I've been thinking that I have too many rainchecks built up lately. To many vacations postponed for a better time, too many "oh I've always wanted to do that!" moments put off. I'm not ready to chuck the whole thing in and become a pastry chef (lifelong carb-filled daydream), but I'm willing to re-examine my priorities. So the Dutchman and I are going to the Virgin Islands in June and we're looking into ballroom dancing lessons.

I want to be a mole with a longer neck...


At 10:57 PM, Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway said...

Hmmm. Interesting metaphor. Is there anything in-between a mole and a giraffe? I'm not sure where I fit, though I sort of suspect I'm a mole.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger History Geek said...

I wonder if a cat can be used to describe a scholar. Otherwise I guess I'm a mole.


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