Friday, October 31, 2008

Miles to go...

I haven't posted anything on this blog for over a fortnight now; of course, there was a lot to talk about - the Marathi vs. North Indian issue, the Hindus' foray into terrorism in India, and what not - but then each time I was tempted to write on my blog, I realized I hadn't worked enough to deserve my reward of blogging. It's not like I am not working at all - I am. In fact, there have been small achievements here and there too. Prof. Ed Hirt - my social psychology professor - for instance, had a lot of praises for my critique on one of the articles that we read this week. On my critique sheet, he remarked: "good point," "agreed," "you are really good - you should have been a reviewer on this paper!," "I am not sure the subjects thought as thoroughly about this as you did, but your arguments make good sense - nice job." In the largely lonely world of doing research as a PhD candidate, where it is easy to be victims of self-doubt, a professor's praise is a huge motivator - it renews belief in your own abilities.
There was some more "renewal" today. Today, I attended a talk by Prof. David Perkins. David - a Ph.D. in mathematics and artificial intelligence from MIT, and a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education - was giving a talk on "theories of difficulty" at Indiana University. At the end of the presentation, I made some comments on the theories, which the revered professor found useful and was very appreciative of. The professor's appreciation meant a lot to me, because several years ago I had read one of his books, "Archimedes’ Bathtub: The Art and Logic of Breakthrough Thinking" that I had enjoyed thoroughly; three years ago, when I was seeking admission into a doctoral program, I had also had some written communication with the professor.
All of us value appreciations, but we value them a lot more when they come from people whom we admire. While praises and appreciations are gratifying and motivating, I believe that we sometimes take them too seriously. Mark Twain had once said, “We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess, than to be praised for the fifteen which we do possess.” Extending Mark Twain's thought, I will say, "If we are giving too much importance to any particular praises that we received, then it is likely that we are not too good in that particular area." My statement may seem too cynical a position, but I have personally met people who live in achievements that are years and decades old. More than indulging in the achievements of our past, we have to ask ourselves, "What have we done today?" As I ask this question to myself, I realize I have done nothing much to celebrate. This reminds me of Robert Frost's famous lines, "...I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

** I started writing this post on Friday (10/31/08) afternoon, but am finishing it only today, i.e., SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2008.

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