Day 29: Perspective

22/04/2020

Day 29: Perspective

In practice, dates have begun to lose their everyday significance. There are a clutch of dates linked to major events and that’s about it. For instance, 3rd May – when the lockdown in India is to be lifted. Other days in between, signifying work deadlines, calls etc can be left to the calendar. A 15 min pre-event reminder is all that is required in these lockdown days. It has been a month of brilliant skies and outstanding immobility. The learning (among other lessons) is that natural events can be completely trusted for snaring back life into a sense of discipline. The trouble with us is that it takes phenomenal amounts of energy to break away from the inertial daily life to pull oneself out and begin focusing on things that build life as opposed to maintaining it. One tends to be busy with maintenance for most part of life. This needed a change. I am glad and certainly acknowledge the privilege that life in lockdown has led to a grand resetting of life. This might not have happened if left on me to orchestrate. Priorities, preferences and more importantly, needs appear clear now. It gets easier to build on this clarity as the lockdown eases in days ahead. 

I am reminded of the early days of lockdown when I referred to the lockdown as a ‘great pause’ for the planet. To this a friend remarked that it is just a pause for us human beings. Every creature besides us is free and living as they were. I realized the saturation of anthropocentric views in the way I relate and think about the world. This seems a difficult thing to help when all our lives we are predisposed and conditioned to place ourselves at the center of events and speak about what’s happening to us. We might have been less mentally vulnerable had we not been anthropocentric. To place oneself at the centre is to vest self-importance as the original position which then needs constant affirmation and acknowledgement from others. Else, the castle crumbles. Moreover, situations like lockdown can prove to be antithetical to such a sense of self. A life regarded as one of the elements of an environment as opposed to occupying the center of it is likely to open us up to several new observations and experiences. We begin to see better. 

As other days, this too went in reading, writing, cooking and working. I continue to struggle with developing an online version of the course that I was to teach during summer school for K-12 kids in May and June. I fear losing interest in the medium  before the kids do, in a 10 hour course. 

I read Nicholas Thompson’s essay To Run My Best Marathon at Age 44, I Had to Outrun My Past (H/T Hari Menon) on his journey with marathon running and the quest to explore the frontiers of his personal best. The medium happens to be a marathon. It is an unusual piece in the running lit space because of its narrative arc that seems linear but interweaves personal history, running and life experiences. It is a tempered examination, situating running in family history and ageing. It is not adrenaline driven. For those going after personal bests aren’t just seeking adrenaline. There is a whole lot of life – incidents, stories, values, ideas etc behind that pursuit. I could relate to it at several points. Especially that moment when he stops by during a run back from work, and zones out for half an hour.

My time on substack has also increased. I have been reading several newsletters. I do not have a paid subscription to any. I do understand that sometimes knowledge does not come free or cheap. However, I feel I have enough to learn from that which is floating around for free before I move to locked portals of premium, perhaps high impact, knowledge. i I read Alex Danco’s perspective and interesting POV in Can Twitter Save Science? His use of ‘indentured scientist’ class for postdoctoral fellows is hilarious and hard hitting. I was once a life science student. I left to study social sciences a couple of years later. But interest and preference for science has stayed. So, his framing of the problem with scientific research and with research careers is an interesting area. He is speculating changes in the scientific research environment and processes given that twitter has had several scientists sharing their peer-reviewed research in addition to publishing in specialized journals. I agree with him that it is not too far a day when non- peer reviewed research will also be shared and will lead to a thriving research communication with the public, which may or may not get published. The other interesting scenario is already here with the pandemic. Danco writes – 

Look, for instance, at this Twitter thread of scientists going through Coronavirus research in real time. This kind of discussion used to only be able to take place in private email threads between elite scientists, or in slow, back-and-forth editorials in journals, also between elite scientists. Now anyone can participate!  There is no barrier to putting yourself out there and contributing.

Towards this democratization of science, we will certainly see more scientists opening up in their personal capacities. Times ahead can be interesting and productive, as long as we don’t scar ourselves too badly in living and recovering from this pandemic.

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