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. I’d welcome hearing the advice and experience of others who’ve walked this road!
Posts by Georgina Bartlett
One of my favourite pieces of Christmas music is ‘For unto us a Child is born’ from Georg Friderich Händel’s Messiah. I have loved it since I was a child, touched by its bouncing joy and the intricacy of its polyphonic choral writing, with lines appearing and disappearing like needles through the musical fabric, aligning with each other for a few ‘stitches in time’ before one vanishes to reappear a moment later in a different hue. As a music historian, I am enchanted by the majesty of Händel’s choral setting, but its glorious lyrics are what I love most. The piece is a setting of Isaiah 9:6—one of my favourite Bible verses:
In the next few weeks, I am hoping to submit my thesis. I'm not at the summit of my academic career (at least, I hope I'm not!) but I am approaching a significant waypoint that I've been working towards for three years. I don't really know what I expected to feel as I approached the final incline: victory, perhaps? I certainly don't feel that. I do feel wondrous awe and gratitude, though: at this natural pausing place in my academic (and life) journey, God has pulled me aside, turned me around, and shown me where I am and where I've come. It's a beautiful view.
It's vacation season once more and everyone seems to be posting pictures of themselves lounging by the river, sipping G&Ts. No better time, then, to consider the role of rest in our work. Academia seems to offer lots of ‘time off’: Easter breaks, Christmas breaks, and summer breaks can dwarf the terms they punctuate. But we all know that breaks are not really breaks for researchers. When undergrads are away, academics rejoice: now we can really start getting some work done!
I met with some academic colleagues recently over a meal. It was a lovely group of people but I came away depressed...everyone has done so much. Comparing my meager achievements with what everyone else had accomplished, I felt like my resume was as watertight as a chocolate teapot.
My doctorate flashed before my eyes and I searched desperately for time misspent. How could I have been more effective? When should I have written that monograph and book proposal, along with mastering my second, third, fourth, and fifth languages? And then I asked myself: if I was so far behind everybody else already, was academia even going to be an option for me in the future? The task seemed impossible.
As academics, we don’t like looking foolish. We are trained to provide evidence for assertions, and refrain from making them if we can’t provide justification for what we think and believe. But as I have been working through 1 Corinthians over the past few months, I have been convicted and encouraged by Paul’s call to ‘foolishness’.
I am a confirmed lover of Christmas. I love fairy lights and frost on the ground, poinsettias and Christmas ornaments, baking and decorating the tree. I love all the frills. Even though none of these things are particularly ‘commercial’, I’ll admit that none of them are necessarily about celebrating Jesus, either! And it seems I’m not alone among Christians: though we get to celebrate Christ’s presence with us every day of the year, it’s hard to deny that there’s something ‘magical’ about this season. But what is it about Christmas that holds us in thrall, even those to whom it offers no real hope? Have we all just succumbed to the opiate of sentimentalism and commercialism?
A friend of mine who is a primary school teacher recently remarked that she loves working at a Christian school because she can teach children not only how to learn, but why to learn. Creation is a reflection of God’s glory and power and it is worth studying because it boldly declares the glory of its Maker.
Most of us like studying… it’s why we’re still in the academy! But even if we’re quite successful at learning stuff and we like doing so, we must remember why learning is beautiful and important in itself—we must remember its chief end—because in competitive academies, our success and joy in learning can easily falter or fail.
At my church, we have been going through Isaiah in this month's sermon series. When we got to chapter 42, I was struck by the call in verse 10 to ‘sing a new song’. This is a phrase I've come across again and again in the Bible (in fact, I've found and listed a handful of these occurrences below) but it was the first time I stopped and pondered: why a new song? Why not an old song? God’s plan for his people was established before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-10). So what is it about the newness of the song that’s important?
It’s a rainy day outside and my mind has wandered to puddles. Puddles are commonplace (in England especially!) without much beauty or substance, but they can do one great thing: they can reflect what’s above them.
I’ve been pondering distinctiveness in academia lately, asking: how does being a Christian affect how I navigate the academy? This has been a convicting exercise but a very helpful one. Below, I’ve jotted down a few ways I think I can reflect God better in academia, and I hope my own thoughts might inspire similar personal reflections in others.