Recently I have been focusing on trying to pursue interests outside of my research.
It is strange how that sentence sounds like a guilty confession. Having interests outside of your research? Doesn’t “interests” equate to “research? Do you not find your research to be interesting? I do find the work that I do interesting, and I feel privileged to enjoy working on my PhD perhaps 3 out of the 5 days a week. But does it fulfil me entirely? Of course not.
Research (which is – when stripped back – Work) cannot stand in for Life. I was inspired to begin to concentrate and think along these lines when reading Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness. Amusingly, it was for my upcoming chapter that I chose to read this, although the book choice was not a necessary reference rather a lenient choice on a Friday afternoon.
Russell’s argument In Praise of Idleness is that:
“the importance of knowledge consists not only in its direct practical utility but also in the fact that it promotes a widely contemplative habit of mind”
An old-school defensiveness about the ‘value’ of the humanities was what I was searching for, and indeed what I came to find. However, Russell’s essay is more about economics than touchy-feely emotions, for example:
“serious minded persons, for example, are continuously condemning the habit of going to the cinema, and telling us that it leads the young into crime. But all the work that goes into producing cinema is respectable because it is work, and because it brings a money profit. The notion that desirable activities are those that bring a profit has made everything topsy turvy […] the baker who provides you with bread is praiseworthy, because they are making money; but when you enjoy the food they have provided, you are merely frivolous unless you eat only to get strength for your work […]
We think too much of production, and too little of consumption. One result is that we attach too little importance to enjoyment and simple happiness, and that we do not judge production by the pleasure that it gives to the consumer”
Wise words from Katharine Hepburn: “If you always do what
interests you, at least one person will be pleased.”