Your conflicted feelings are not coincidences.
Graduate school is a place of oxymorons:
- Your supervisor is partly your boss and partly your mentor.
- Your job is to do original research, but you are expected to play within the confines of academic traditions.
- You are being trained to be an “expert” and yet you need to validate what you say with other people’s words.
- You want your research to be for the greater good but to climb that academic ladder you need to publish in gated knowledge communities.
- Universities are full of students and faculty, and yet you find yourself ever so isolated.
There is a common saying that knowledge is power, but the opposite is also true: academia can be quite disempowering.
Do you feel your pain?
If the answer is no, you can stop reading here. This course isn’t for you. If the answer is yes, keep reading.
Manifestos. Declarations. Protests.
We hear promises of change everywhere and yet, do you see the change you want to see in the world? How about in yourself?
Pledges of change are easy to make, but the reality is, the numbing discomfort of a comfort zone is more tolerable than breaking the cycle of repressed pain. Only when the pain of not changing surpasses the pain of staying in a cycle will a person (and a society) embark on their transformative journey. As 13th century poet Rumi has wrote, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.
To see the change you desire in the world, you must also face your own resistance to change and to face your own pain.
If you are still reading, then you are already at this crossroads. You already feel enough pain to want to change. And you intuitively know that your transformation matters.
Your obstacles are more than problems.
You may see your distresses and concerns as problems. Or see pertinent social-ecological issues in the world as problems. But if you consider the difference between problems and mysteries, then you will realize that there are no social-ecological “problems”. Every issue you try to solve, every change you want to make in the world, including your life, to some extent is a “mystery” in which you are involved.
In the process of unraveling a mystery, you are also changed in the process.
You will have to face your own painful emotions regarding this mystery, but to sincerely work through any social-ecological issue, you are also accepting to go through a process of self-discovery.
If you feel lost, frustrated, isolated, or doubtful, know that there is nothing wrong with you. Your intrinsic ability to know worthiness, belonging, and security is found in life’s mystery, and not through problem-solving. But society’s need to compartmentalize knowledge and reject certain forms of knowing (i.e., personal, intuitive, mystical etc.) has ended up exiling you (and others), metaphorically from the world.