Monday, August 20, 2007

The Girl, The Dragon and the PhD

Legend holds that the Doctoral Degree lies beyond the forest, beyond the mountains and is the sacred possession of the Dissertation Dragon. Tales are spun and spun again about travelers' quests for the degree and the ferocity of the Dragon. The Course is the path leading to the Dragon’s lair. It is strewn with the bodies of noble intellectuals unsuccessful in their bids. The Course for some was too long, for others too steep and for still others, simply too difficult. Before even reaching the Dragon’s lair the traveler must face the attack of the Questions. The Questions attack one’s sense of purpose, of competence, and in extreme attacks, one’s self-worth. The Questions lay in wait, in the darkest sections of the path. It is from there, when the traveler is most weary, most beaten, and most in need of a balm that the Questions launch their attack. They coordinate with the Vicissitudes of Life to maximize the destructive force of their arsenal. The Vicissitudes periodically clamp down and inject life forces to undermine the concentration of the traveler. These forces are the Too-Forces. They inject too much sorrow or too much happiness. Illness and misfortune are legendary foes of concentration and the Vicissitudes bring them both to the siege. They also bring life pleasures of love and lust which are equally dangerous to the focus of the traveler.

In addition to the attacks from the Questions and the Vicissitudes, the traveler's persona is threatened. In the struggle to traverse the Course, the Course itself vies to steal the persona of the traveler. It tries to capture the voice of the traveler. It attempts to replace the traveler’s native tongue with a jargon-laden, hypersyllabic, abstract intellectuo speak. That voice, unnatural to the traveler, is the language of the thief. It is a language that complicates the truth and hides conviction. The process is a slow-moving heist. Once the voice is gone, passion is next. The passions that drove the traveler to challenge the Dragon are somehow dampened. Each of the traveler’s thoughts begins to commence with “it depends” and ends by trailing off into relativism. The absolute stand of conviction that is born of fiery passion is gone, the theft of the persona complete.

The lucky and tenacious traveler will survive these trials. She may well have to step over the fallen bodies of her partners but she persists. She meets the attacks of the Questions with uncertain answers backed by unshakable faith. She remains sufficiently resilient such that the Vicissitudes are reduced to mere impostors like triumph and disaster. She holds onto her voice such that the connection between her words and her meaning remains clear. Most importantly, she is successful in beguiling the Course. She turns its trials against it and uses it as fuel for the fire of her passion. While absolutism may be the property of the extremist, the position and conviction of the traveler is clear and unmistakable. She remains true to herself and an honorable representative of the clan from which she has come.

After having warred with Shaka-style ferocity, the traveler has simply survived the Course. The degree still rest in the bowels of the lair guarded by the Dissertation Dragon. Despite apprehension, the traveler opens the comprehensive gate and in so doing alerts the dragon of her presence. Everything that the traveler has learned, everything that she has endured is designed to prepare her for this last battle. The dragon they call Dissertation, however, is a dragon indeed. Its lips drip with the complexities of interposition and operationalization. Its skin is an elusive problem that render it difficult to see and more difficult still to characterize. In addition, it is singularly armed with all of the weaponry of the Course – the Questions, the Vicissitudes and the Heist. It is also armed with the psychological weapon of boundlessness. The Course had a visible end. The traveler was spurred on when, from the mountaintop, she could see the end. The dragon at first sight is boundless. On top of the awesome sight of the dragon are the terms of engagement. The traveler must first devise a cogent plan by which she intends to slay the dragon. This plan, devised under the pressure of the looming dragon, must survive the attack of the Guardians of the Degree. The Guardians are themselves dragon slayers. They are the sages of the journey. In attacking the traveler’s plan, they push until the brink of capitulation to ensure the readiness of the traveler for the battle at hand. Out from the clamoring of swords and the posturing for power comes a potion of guidance and encouragement. Armed with this potion, a symbol of the blessings of the Guardians, the traveler attempts to slay the dragon. Legend has it that the potion renders the traveler unconquerable but not uninjurable. There are those, however, that have gone in to fight the dragon and have neither been seen nor heard from since.

There is a traveler poised to absorb the attack from the Guardians and hopefully earn a sip of the potion of potency. She hasn’t done it yet so we’ll see if there is any truth to all this legend shit.

kamau

6 comments:

jillian said...

my dear friend ~

i am on the Course, somewhere between the Questions and the Vicissitudes. i am moving along though, with increasing ferocity, and battling now for a sip. in truth, ‘guidance and encouragement’ is an understatement about the potency of the potion. i am so thankful for you.

Sara said...

Amen, brother.

Damien said...

I'll say it again: fiction. Heavily allegorical fiction. Think Dante, but Georgia Tech could be the "silva obscura." ~dbme

Sukari said...

Couldn't have said it any better my old friend-

Having recently completed The Course myself (in fact, having co-coursed for a time with you Kamau- at Midwood and UCB and now back at UCB post-Course), the daily attack from the Dragon can defintely be a struggle... but as a fight to retain MY voice, it is one that MUST be won!

Just introduced to the blog ...keep it up!

luvlife0702 said...

if you ask me, the whole thing is a game. and there are rules but some folks dont play fair. that really is the issue. power tripping egomaniacs who nobody knows actually want to decide someone's future based on knowledge of some random fact they can find on wikipedia in a heartbeat should the info become even slightly relevant to anything important to daily or marsly life. then after you get the piece of paper that say you know a lot of crap about some shit noone else understands (including your committee much of the time:-), then they say 6 years and we decide if you can become one of us. scam, i say. as a jamaican, i say scam. and lord knows i know a scam when i see one.

The Truth Helps said...

Trying to keep my voice and passion as I persevere.