The more we learn about a subject, the more we see there is to discover. This is true regardless of the subject and can keep a person awake at night as the mind struggles to make sense of some new piece of information or revelation. Over the last couple of months I've been on a personal journey to learn more about myself and what I would like to accomplish in the second half of my life. To do this I've been reading a number of books on philosophy and examining how I've lived up until now, which has lead me to discover that I am most certainly not nihilistic1 nor am I an atheist in the modern sense of the word2. I know how I would like to describe myself, but don't feel the description would be accurate given my self-perceptions.
But then this is the human condition, isn't it? We know our flaws and repeatedly see how we fail to live up to our own expectations. It's hard to appreciate the good aspects of who we are and what we've accomplished. Focusing on the "bad" and being disappointed is so much easier, and often counter-productive.
That said, I've been thinking a great deal about some of the nudges that people have been giving me with regards to future career options. Friends and family here have all suggested that I work to earn a doctorate and then teach at a university. Interestingly the subjects people suggest I teach have little to do with technology and instead focus more on people. History, psychology, and philosophy are all subjects that I've studied on my own in order to learn more about where we are as a species and where we'll be going. Humanity has a nasty habit of repeating its history, so by studying the patterns of the past one can extrapolate what might happen in the future. For this to happen, I would need to first earn a master's degree, then go on for a Ph.D. Not at all impossible, though a serious time investment.
What would going back to school have to do with how I see myself? It would address one of my fundamental goals in life: providing context for critical thinking3. Millions of disparate blocks of data reside in our head and anyone can appear "smart" just by spouting off facts and figures from memory. This is fine for test-taking, but doesn't really work when trying to make sense of the world. It's when we take the data and turn it into information that people can begin to make sense of it, and it's when the information is put into context that others can better understand the poetic justice of cause and effect that resulted in the topic of discussion. Mind you, it's only in 101-level classes that students are given everything in context. Start going up through the years and very quickly it's the students who must provide that context through research and careful analysis.
Is this something I would seriously like to do in the future, though? Going back to school would be a decade-long investment at a minimum and require quite a bit of sacrifice. While I would continue create software and whatnot when possible, it would return to more of a pastime than something I do every day. Is this something I'd be happy with? Do I really want to teach for the remainder of my working years?
As always, I have a great deal to think about4.
- The study of nihilism this past summer was incredibly fascinating and enlightening, and it raised a bunch of questions that I was able to research and read more about. Heck, if anyone is ever looking for a good topic for a short podcast series, nihilism would be an excellent topic to examine. ↩
- An event in 1998 resulted in me rejecting my Catholic upbringing, leaving the Church where I was a deacon, and deciding that a person can be "good" without the rituals, politics, and coverups that are found in the Church. ↩
- What is 10Centuries if not a platform that can provide a point-in-time contextual representation of a person's thought processes? ↩
- I have no plans on stopping any of the projects I current work on or contribute to. The earliest I'd be able to go back to school would be 2020 anyway, which is years away. Mortgages don't pay themselves, either, so a steady stream of income must be a precursor to any career changes. ↩