Sunday, 2 January 2011

Intellectual Troughs

I'm hitting an intellectual trough lately. I feel either like I'm out of ideas or there just aren't that many interesting thoughts swirling around in my head compared to my more prolific past. There were periods back then where I'd be churning out post after post of untested ideas, theories and concepts day in and day out, but at the moment I'm barely there.

But I'm not one to despair, because to the seasoned thinking mind this is an interesting issue in itself to be explored.

I think one reason for the recent slowdown is that I might be academically maturing. This means that I am less likely to present an idea until it has been well reasoned and thought out. Before I am satisfied that an idea is solid, I am unlikely (these days, at least) to put it forward. This will definitely result in far less presented ideas, but when they do come out they're already pretty weighty.

Part of the maturing process also leads to greater streamlining (or possibly cynicism) of thoughts and ideas. It could either mean that I am far more quick to dismiss new ideas that come to mind when I spot possible flaws in them (which is easier now that I know more), or that my fascination with things has slowed down. It's not that I am any less fascinated in general, but that as one gets more seasoned, the novelty of experiences in a purely quantitative sense decreases. For instance, I was far more horrified by depression back then when I first discovered it than now when I've come to understand it more. There is a settling down effect going on here.

Another aspect of my intellectual trough which I think is more manageable is that I've generally zen-ed out more over the past two years. This can be both a good and a bad thing.

The good thing is that, obviously with becoming more zen, I take far less issue with things, because I'm more at peace with things that normally shake us and we are less in control of. I am also more willing to forgive people for the stupid things they do and attribute it to the situation.

However, being zen means that I am less likely to question, judge and challenge ideas, people and situations. Being more forgiving means that I am quicker to reconcile any peeves or frustrations I have. I definitely remember that when I was less cautious (both about making mistakes and offending people) and more controversial with what I said or thought about, I pushed boundaries more and developed more ideas. I certainly ruffled some feathers along the way, but in terms of being in a constant state of thought and idea generation, I was right up there like a machine. Those were very prolific times which encouraged me greatly to believe that I had the productivity to be a good academic.

I'm not doubting my ambition of being an academic and publishing my own research work at all. But it would be great if I can get that fire back, and ensure that it remains consistent. Lulls may be good in some ways, such as to relax or zen out, but they can snowball into bigger intellectual sinkholes, and once they become extended they represent huge sunk cost. I think the key is to be able to snap out of intellectual troughs like these at will.

Perhaps this calls for some life or mind hacking techniques.

Another worry is that there were times that particular issues really bothered me. At one time, I was extremely concerned with understanding power balances between social entities (both between persons and between groups). At another time, I was very curious about self esteem. The burning desire to find out more about these issues at those times and the belief that I had solutions was so strong that I could write books off them.

But each phase in life brings forth new contentions, and at the moment I have other considerations to take care of. I can only hope that those curiosities that once existed remain strong until I've earned my qualifications to study them and publish material on them. I seriously can't wait for that moment where I've earned my PhD to come... Seems like it's taking forever to get even to the part where I can finally apply, and even then the journey there isn't a smooth one because my grades do not guarantee an easy entry.

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