FiSch blog

Solitude and unity: a medieval perspective

Like many of you, I spent yesterday morning, not at church, where I would usually be, but sitting on my sofa at home in front of a laptop, watching a livestream of my pastor preaching to an empty building. In just a week, it seems, everything has changed. The Covid-19 pandemic means that ordinary Sunday services, along with most other kinds of social gathering, won't be possible for some time to come. It's unprecedented and unsettling (though I'm very grateful for the technology that enables virtual connections of various types).

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Academic Publishing: A Necessary Evil?

For the early academic, the rallying cry is ‘publish or die’! In an over-saturated job market, we are trained to focus on publication, believing—because we are more or less told—that we are only as good as our publishing record.

I have long dreaded the publication process. The stakes seem so high and I’ve been resentful of how the pressure to publish shifts my focus from my research topic itself to how I can market is successfully. I know that publishing is a ‘necessary evil’ in academia, but I also know it as a hollow and demoralising process.

Reading and praying

I've written before on FiSch, as well as elsewhere, about my research on prayer. Today I want to look at a particular idea which jumped out at me recently, speaking to my own life and practice as well as to the medieval recluses it was meant for. This is the simple statement in Ancrene Wisse, a guide for women recluses, that 'Reading is a good way to pray'.

Full time, big time... God's time?

Wristwatch

A few months ago I passed a milestone in my own post-PhD academic life, by starting a full-time academic contract. For several years I'd been juggling two part-time contracts at neighbouring universities, adding up to roughly full-time hours and with a higher than usual concentration of teaching, so in terms of raw time commitment the move to a full-time job didn't seem particularly daunting.

In Between-Times

Finishing a doctorate is glorious and wonderfully freeing (see previous post). But it's amazing how quickly reality sets in after a brief moment of victory. One set of goals is replaced by another and the challenge of navigating along the unmarked, foggy road of a DPhil is followed by the equally challenging task of locating the next road to take. I am a newbie to the post-viva life and very far from mastering it, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts I’ve had as I get used to this new part of the postgraduate journey.

The Cambridge Scholars Network

Cambridge Scholars Network logo

Of all the discipleship opportunities open to Christian PhD students in the UK, perhaps the Cambridge Scholars Network offers evangelical thinkers the most sustained and intense mentoring experience you could easily apply for.  This year's event runs from 12 to 18 July, and I'd like to encourage eligible readers of this blog to apply.

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A joined-up cosmos for geniuses?

Recently I wrote about my impression of a predominance of religious worldviews and practices among the most celebrated mathematicians.  I concluded by indicating that I wouldn't be surprised if religious worldviews were more conducive to great advances in maths and other disciplines, because of the way that faith and imagination are involved in discovery.  Today I'd like to explore some slightly more specific ideas about how that might work.  This is very tentative, largely because I'm clearly not one of those mathematical geniuses myself!  But I wan

A poem for a new year

As 2019 has come to a close, and a new decade is beginning, I have been thinking about a poem by Emily Dickinson - one of my favourites, for its enigmatic imagery and its expression of longing: 'I did not reach Thee'. Here is the first stanza (you can read the whole thing here):

I did not reach Thee
But my feet slip nearer every day
Three Rivers and a Hill to cross
One Desert and a Sea
I shall not count the journey one
When I am telling thee.

On the seventh day of Christmas

dinner table awaiting guests

I've always felt sad at the passing of Christmas Day: at how quickly the world moves on to Boxing-Day sales, extinguished fairy lights, discarded fir trees and raucous New-Year revelries.  Perhaps it's partly nostalgia, but I yearn for those past times when the twelve days of Christmas were celebrated in full.  For me, Christmas is worth lingering on, because it's a sign of the world to come.

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