Passing Go

My dissertation is finished, turned in, waiting to be read and critiqued. Now that it is out of my hands I am asked in the morning what I am doing in the afternoon, in the afternoon I am asked what I will be doing the next day. I can only answer that I am planning, that I am structuring a future for myself and that I am looking for other goals to shoot down.

When I come to the end of something I am never as completely pleased with myself as I probably should be. Turning in my dissertation did not give me a good feeling, I did not feel like an accomplished person or someone worthy of praise. So long I am actually able to complete something, this something loses its attraction of having been a difficult task. If I can do it and if many other people have done it then is not as courageous a deed as I had wished when I began. That is the silly thing about me… I am never completely happy with what I have done. I want to keep reaching more goals, mastering different facets of life, becoming a better person and worker. I need to learn to take a deep breath and enjoy the end of a long road.

I am taking my leave from academia. I need to grow and do different things – I feel excited about applying my academic skills in a non-academic setting. I am currently looking for an opportunity to do so – if you read this, please wish me (in all secrecy) the best of luck.

I have, however, been waiting for the chance to start writing for fun again. This blog is my playground and I have an extended recess and, if I am allowed to do as I please, the coming days, weeks and months will see a flurry of content.

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must write…

I’m now working at the University cafeteria.  A couple times of week I run the dishes through the huge washing machine and pick up after lazy students.  One time a week I serve beer, coffee and whatever else “customers” are able to find on our assorted list of drinks.

Am I embarrassed to be washing dishes while working on my dissertation?  A little bit.  Every once in a while I run into someone with a marketable area of study (physics, medicine, etc) and they tell me about the abundance of scholarships they have available to them.  They then pretend to sympathize that I have to wear an apron as I hand them their beer.

I’m not taking any courses so, academically, I’m just reading and writing on my own.  I tried to picture a life in Germany where I was only reading and writing, where I spent everyday in the library – leaving only to purchase coffee.  In this life I could briefly brag about my scholarships before crawling back into my hole – slowly beginning to call my dissertation, “my precious”, and losing what little skin tone I have left (man, I’m going to kick you where the sun don’t shine! Where? Germany?)

I’m actually quite satisfied with having to work.  It massages my sanity and makes this country a much less foreign place.

I do, however, have one academic project that pays and it is a translation project.  I took it on figuring I would just struggle through the translation and improve my German along the way.  I’ve never had to do something so frustrating.  I curse the incompatibility of German and English sentence structure as I cry on my keyboard.

I’m hoping to begin posting much more often again so let us not be strangers.

personal update

I’m still alive! But I’m working full-time and trying to keep up on my reading (trying but not succeeding). I thought my archaeological career was going to be over with the ending of February but I was asked to work longer. Now that we’re 10 days into the month of March the status of my job is back to being erratic. Will I have work after Wednesday? Nobody knows. Will I have work next week? Maybe. The unfortunate thing about archeology is that the availability of work depends on what turns up after the big machinery turns back the top soil. If there isn’t anything of archaeological significance then there is no work for us shovel bums. On the other hand, if a lot is found then there there is a lot of work to be done. Nobody can tell you what will or will not be found – if there will or will not be work. I would leave and find a different job (one that could tell me if I’m working next week) if I didn’t like my coworkers so much and if I didn’t find the work interesting.

Last weekend I drove up to Cologne with some coworkers to celebrate the birthday of yet another coworker. To begin with I’m not the most outgoing guy – add the embarrassment of a foreign language and I turn into the silent weird guy who won’t leave the proximity of the two people he came with. There are still times when I can’t say what I want to say, there are still conversations I can’t have because the right words don’t come to mind and this has become plain frustrating. One of the guys I work with is from New Zealand and sometimes we take the train together. He recently began talking English to me (although we only speak German at work) and I sometimes forget to speak English and respond in German. My brain has placed German as “default language” in its interior settings and sometimes I have to pause to think about how to say something properly in English. My German is incomplete and my English is taking a nap (although writing is much easier). What’s most frustrating is that I haven’t noticed any improvement in my German in the last couple of months as if I have hit a plateau. I long for the gibe and banter that gets tossed back and forth between my friends in Santa Cruz.

I’m still waiting to hear from some scholarships. They promised to inform me by the end of March but I already check my email first thing after coming home from work. I have little hope of actually being awarded a scholarship but if I don’t receive one I will be stuck (yet again) trying to balance study and work – studying so much as to make progress on my dissertation and working so much as to be able to pay rent and eat. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if I could concentrate on my studies the entire time I was in Germany? I don’t regret having to work in archeology but that job might last just one more week. What comes next will most definitely be not as interesting or as fun. Receiving a scholarship might even make this venture seem plausible.

My head is spinning and sleep is holy.

17th month

My third semester here in Germany has come to a close. I’ll be working full-time at the excavation until the end of February. Unfortunately, after a day at work, I am exhausted and my creative powers drop by 95%. I’ll be tuning down my reading for the next couple of weeks for practical concerns. I’ll start working my way through a collection of lyrical and critical essays by Albert Camus and hopefully post a review/response/analysis of the essays I find interesting. I never find it hard to respond to Camus’ work so this should be a feasible goal for the next couple of weeks. Forgive me, however, if I seem to be only working with 5% of my creative powers :)

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theology on its deathbed?

During this semester two fliers from the Theology department have crossed my hand. One was advertising a colloquium that was to discuss the question, “is Theology on its deathbed?” The second was a typical science versus religion discussion where the theologians were to do battle against the theories of Richard Dawkins (the flier asked the question, “has science finally disproved religion?”).

Here I thought that it was 19th century German philosophy that scooted theology out of the land of academics – but here is 21st century Germany asking if theology is still a healthy academic discipline. I’m amazed until I remember that this is officially a Christian nation.

Somehow public American Universities got the hint and left the study of Theology out of their course books and instituted Religious Studies (an area of study that doesn’t rise and fall with the interpretation of one book) as a replacement. The true heir to theology, however, thanks to the mighty influence of Hegel, has been philosophy.

Philosophy could also be on its deathbed – at least the late Richard Rorty thought so and at least in the US (Germany is a little behind in sending academic disciplines floating away on their fiery caskets). The scary thing is that I agree with Rorty’s sentiments. Philosophy won’t stop being a subject in the US anymore than theology has stopped being a subject in Germany. But maybe, somewhere, comparative literature departments will consume philosophy more and more, taking what’s necessary and leaving behind what’s stale. Kind of like scraping off the burnt part of toast… Then the people from those departments can pick up fliers from the people over in philosophy and scoff.

Rucker is one gnarly guy

Retired math Professor, sometime philosophy Professor, science fiction writer, painter (etc., etc.) Rudy Rucker posted his proof of Panpsychism (everything is conscious) and Hylozoism (every physical object is alive). The argument is there for you to follow step for step with all sources conveniently linked (including his video on “Gnarl”). He stamps his conclusions with a QED…

Everything is conscious and alive? Kind of creepy, no?

That is if we accept all of his premises –

the sky outside my window

I have a large window that I hate around 2-4pm because the sun shines in my eyes as I sit at my desk and try to work. I have a large window that I love around 4-6pm because the sun throws wild colors in the air, like last gasps of breath, as it falls beyond eyesight.

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The problem is that I stare out my window instead of into my books.

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