Traveling but not arriving

So about a week and a half ago I finished a chapter from my dissertation and turned it in for review.  If all goes well I am one chapter away from having the body of the book finished with the intro and the conclusion to write.  I think this blog has been helpful getting me moving along with things and it has been really nice when what I have written here has struck a chord with some people.  The process feels satisfying in a way that the dissertation doesn’t.  When I turn in a chapter for review it gets complemented (this is very interesting, Michael) and then slaughtered (for someone who is completely stupid).   The carnage is not only typos but also a list of things like “Have you considered…”.  The have-you-considered(s) are the worst because first, no I haven’t considered and second, I wonder if this thing will ever be a nice, tidy argument.

One of the best things about what I am writing right now is the way things feel like they are converging.  When I get stuck on my dissertation Shannon often tells me to work on some artwork because “it’s all the same thing.”  My advisor doesn’t understand this completely but Shannon is right.  My artwork, my writing (including, currently, this blog), my family life, my friendships, my running, and my feeble attempts at meditation all seem to carry intellectual weight in different ways.

I ran across this example the other day that I found really cool.  Nicolas of Cusa, a early fifteenth century philosopher and mathematician used this mathematical example to try and explain the relationship between logic and faith, and knowing and truth.  Begin by picturing a circle with a n-sided polygon inscribed inside it. As we learn more, we add sides to the polygon.  However, no matter how many sides we add to the polygon, it will never take the shape of a circle.  From a distance it might appear circular but, under close inspection, there will always be gaps between the polygon and the circle.  To bridge the gap between the polygon and the circle eventually you will have to take a ‘leap of faith’ in your mind.  You have to believe that as your understanding grows the circle is there and, at the same time, you will never reach the circle.  Our lives become the pursuit of a destination we will never reach.

Now, that can be super-bleak or super-comforting.  As a person who strives to be a glass-is-half-full kind of human, I know which one I choose.  And so as I march on, the document will get completed but won’t ever really be finished and I take solace in the tiny joys that seem ever present when I give myself enough time to look.

Wow, that is sappy.  What-ev’s.  And now this is the first thing you have ever read with both Nicolas of Cusa and what-ev’s referenced in the same piece.  Congratulations.  I am going to stop now.

Gratuitous picture of the day (picnic breakfast edition):

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2 Comments

September 23, 2013 · 3:20 pm

2 responses to “Traveling but not arriving

  1. Just wanted to say that I read your blog often when breaking in studio and it is always a joy. Although I’m only working on my thesis, I find your thoughts on your dissertation to be super inspirational when I feel like thesis beast will be the end of everything.

    Hope to see you soon,

    Jess

    • Thanks Jess. I know your thesis will be good because you want it to be good. If you are anything like me, you will be really embarrassed by it eventually but it will be the best you could do right now. This is a good thing.

      I hope to see you soon too. Remember to let your work drive the thesis.

      Take care,

      Michael

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