Monday, 13 February 2012

the plot

"... discussing post-war US literature
with a girl whose upper arm read 'Fiction'
like it might have been type-written.
When I asked her its significance
she said she sometimes took reminding
what she wanted to be doing
whether reading it or writing." 
It seems that this blog has devolved in recent times into a series of brief summaries of the books I've been reading. Now, this is far from the worst of the various one-note themes to which it has clung - "I'm homesick and don't speak the language" and "This is what I did on the weekend" spring to mind - but its not as wide a subject matter as I would like to imagine myself capable of writing. Nor does it really paint a representative picture of what I spend my time on, though its resurrection as one of my leisure activities is something I enjoy.

One of the things I like about fiction, or at least about the books I have been reading, is the presence of a dominant storyline. There isn't always one central character, and there isn't always one location in which the story takes place, but typically there is one thread of activity, or overriding theme, which serves as a spine to give the story structure and direction.

This is not something that can be said of life. Or, at least, not of my life at present.

My work life, in particular, seems at present to be, and for the past year to have been, an exercise in juggling a dozen or more little endeavours at once. Preparing for lectures, dealing with assignments and exams, keeping up with administrative stuff (I handle Masters admissions and credit assessment for transferring students), helping PhD students, undergraduate project students, Masters project students, reviewing conference and journal papers, writing papers, and trying to develop and sustain the handful of international collaborations I have. It often seems like I spend my time just pecking away at each of these enough to keep them from burying me, and I'm left with little time to actually focus on and make inroads on significant problems.

The same is true to a lesser extent of my life outside work. I give snatches of time to sport, or to reading, or to TV or games, or these life measures that other people seem to find so important, like buying a house or getting a car (I find it a little baffling that others consider either of these an achievement). I spend time with friends, but not nearly as much as I should. I visit my family, but not as often as I should. But in neither my work nor my personal life do I feel like I have a dominant storyline, a central quest, a single light on the hill to which my time is contributing.

Now, I should make it clear, I'm not having some kind of existential crisis, bemoaning a lack of meaning in my life. I'm not suggesting that others have a strong sense of their role in life, of some focal point (vanishing point?) towards which their endeavours are leading. Nor am I saying that I'm doing too many things, really. I do feel like there is value in these things I'm doing. If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing them (or in some cases, I'd be able to stop deluding myself that I will get around to them). Its just an interesting contrast between the stories that I read, and the story that I'm writing with my days and hours.

1 comment:

James said...

> I'm not suggesting that others have a strong sense of
> their role in life, of some focal point...
> Nor am I saying that I'm doing too many things...

Do you think it'd be a good thing to have a stronger focal point?