Professors from a covert college, an invisible institute of higher education, are passing near us every day. They're in city crowds, on hiking trails, at the bus stop, in cafes, on the elevator, in a car one lane over on the freeway. Most of them stay hidden, most of the time, even from themselves. If we ask them what they're thinking about, they'll reply, "Oh, nothing."
But they're thinking. We all are. We think about small things, moment to moment --- what somebody is saying, where we need to go next, who just came around the corner. We make choices every second, tiny ones, local micro-decisions, like what step to take right now, which rock to put our foot on. Sporadically we look ahead and think about how we can get to larger goals. We're trying to reach the other side of a river, so we seek a chain of stepping stones that are close enough together for us to cross. We want to finish this immediate task so we can move on to something else, get to the next break, and go home for the day.
Rarely, we look farther down the trail and think about important things. What are we doing here? Why choose the goals that we have? What makes them worthwhile? What happens after we get to them, and their successors? What are the trajectories of our lives --- where are we headed? Are we going in the right directions? When we get to our ends --- which could happen at any moment --- will we be able to look back and feel good about our paths?
We could ask those questions, much more often. Why don't we? We are all members of an invisible college, the tenured faculty of an unseen university --- and we spend our time scurrying from lecture hall to library, from laboratory to staff meeting, too busy with trivia to do our real jobs. What are those jobs? To apply for grants, recruit grad students, lobby for more office space, and fight with each other over departmental budgets? Or to ask, and attempt to answer, the big questions about life ... and to share the answers we find?
Saturday, August 07, 1999 at 08:50:31 (EDT) = Datetag19990807