Some days it feels like the experiment is a bust. I must be crazy. What am I going on about? If I care about philosophy enough to have this blog, why didn't I just stay in academia? Perhaps I am missing something. Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I have a character flaw which makes me not commit to things. Or maybe it is like what some people say to me regarding my decision to leave: "Oh, you were burned out, huh?" The implication that I failed stings. All the more so because deep within me that is the one interpretation of the events which I fear. And which I worry might be true. Maybe all the hoopla of my ideas about why the experiment matters is just a cover for the fact that I failed. Maybe I just couldn't cut it, and I couldn't face up to it. Is that what I am doing by writing now? More cover up?
This self-flagellation and dejection didn't come out of nowhere. I knew I shouldn't do it, but I did it again today. I went to the websites: Harvard, Berkeley, Pitt, Chicago. To the Leiter blog. To see what the professionals are doing. What is happening there. What am I missing out on. Some part of me feels desperate to reaffirm some connection to the profession.
And yet what I see on the websites only makes me feel more distant. For where on those websites can I find my story? Or stories of others like me who had trouble committing? The websites depict only the humming machinery of the profession. The talks. The publications. The same circles of people going around giving talks at each other's departments. The polished sense of progress. And commitment. Why did I have so much trouble with that commitment? Why is it that they were able to do it, and I wasn't? My mind unconsciously asks these questions over and over again, and unable to answer clearly, it gives up, exhausted. The fall back answer arises readily: "because I did something wrong, or I didn't do something enough, or I was too stubborn. It is my fault. Something in me is lacking." And the voice which speaks this answer in my mind suggests the path of action: "Hide all this. Don't let it come to light. Your feelings of insecurity--those are your fault. Just having the feelings shows that there is something wrong with you. You are weak. Don't perpetuate the weakness by showing it to others. Bury it. Don't give a hint of it to anyone. Look normal. Be normal."
In the past I fell prey to this voice. I accepted it's claim that my pain is my fault. But now I see that is not true. The pain is not my fault. Nor any one else's fault. It is simply a fact of my consciousness this evening. Caused, like all facts, by the flux of events in the world. It is not a fact to run away from. To the contrary, it is a fact which holds the clue to my self-understanding. If I can look the pain in the eye and accept it as it is, without putting myself or others down, then some new understanding of myself and the world is possible. The new understanding is always only around the corner from simply acknowledging the pain. From letting it be. Given the turbulence of this evening, no point thinking too much. Or trying too hard to understand. The only way to gain understanding is to be good to oneself. To acknowledge that the deepest part of who one is can only be good. To let the pain be. And to let the understanding come in its own time. To trust and to know that it will come. To let it be.