Monday, December 31, 2007

The year in pictures

Not really, but close, sometimes. Too close.

This cartoon is also for my spiritual sister pj The Literata.

And, of course, for The Most Excellent Elizabeth in her time of Dissertation-Finishing.

This comes to us from the fabulous Dave Walker of CartoonChurch and CartoonBlog fame (also of cute cats fame) and was the most reposted cartoon from his We Blog Cartoons site.

Long and well may he live and lampoon. Happy New Year, Dave!


Grandmère Mimi said...

Jane, I have never heard of anyone who found the process of obtaining a PhD to be a pleasant experience. A good many folks have told me it was not worth it, and that they would not do it again. Perhaps, I know the wrong people.

Happy New Year!

Jane R said...

Definitely not worth it unless you absolutely need it for your vocation (e.g. teaching at a college, university, or semninary level or doing university research) or for "political" reasons (e.g. an African American friend of mine who doesn't plan on going into academe full-time but knows that the particular Ph.D. she is getting will provide her with credibility in her advocacy and education field and the possibility of leveraging various kinds of support and being taken more seriously). Was it to you that I mentioned that when students come to me to talk about doctoral work, I am like the rabbi who turns away would-be converts three times? (In the Jewish tradition that is what you are supposed to do.) I make very clear to them that Ph.D. studies are expensive, depressing, and fattening. They are also not equivalent to "being an intellectual" (though in the U.S. there is a much closer connection than in Europe, where most of my friends don't have Ph.D.s but are intellectuals). Which is not to say that no one should do this and that I don't encourage and mentor and write recommendations for people who decide they will do this. We need more good people in academe and it is a worthy vocation, and I am especially committed to supporting people who have been under-represented in the academic field (same people as everywhere else: women, persons of color, working-class and poor people, out lgbt people, though this is changing some).

Then again, the call to ordained ministry and the complicated and demanding ordination process is similar. You've really got to experience this as a call from Godde to go through it!

One of my best friends from divinity school says one of our mentors told her there were three things you should never do unless you absolutely totally really have to do them and feel utterly compelled to do them: getting ordained, getting a Ph.D., and getting married!! (She eventually did all three, brave woman that she is.)

And all that said -- one of the people whom I am committed to encouraging is a young man who has always wanted to do doctoral work in physics; it's his lifelong dream and he is inching closer to it. Never would I put a barrier in his way.

But I do think in the humanities and social sciences it's somewhat different.

Anyway, enough chatter and back to my New Year's Eve writing -- a tradition of many years, though my other favorite thing to do on New Year's Eve besides solitude and quiet (many of my acquaintances would not believe the solitude and quiet thing, but it is true) is to have a nice small dinner with close friends, or particular family members. No Times Square or fireworks for me. :-)

Actually, there is a third thing which is to do something liturgical. When I was in full-time ministry as a Catholic laywoman, in this case during my Boston years, we used to have a late evening liturgy on December 31 for people who wanted an alternative to the drunken partying New Year's Eve, particularly people who had made a commitment to recovery from addictions. But many others attended too. It was a lovely, contemplative experience, and it ended a little after midnight so people spent the turn of the year together. In the Catholic Church January 1 (as you know) is also the feast of Mary Queen of Peace, and since this was a Catholic community committed to peace and justice work (the Paulist Center in downtown Boston, made [in]famous during the Kerry campaign because by then John Kerry was a member -- he wasn't when I was there) it was a great way to celebrate. Sometime not long after Boston started its First Night tradition which involved arts and performance events all over the city, and we became one of the sites for some of the concerts but also continued our own late night liturgical event, as I recall. So this arts tradition, which other cities have also adopted, provided a wonderful alternative to the inane New Year's Eve craziness, with both early evening (for families with children) and late evening and nighttime(for anyone) concerts and plays et al.

Happy New Year to you! from talkative Jane

Jane R said...

Oops, that's seminary. Yes, I can spell.

Jane R said...

And that sentence about the ordination process should say are, not is. Oy! That'll teach me not to proofread on New Year's Eve.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Jane, do encourage the young man who wants his PhD in physics! We need him!

When I was a slip of a girl, January 1 was the Feast of the Circumcision. Tell that to your teen-age boyfriend who is not RC, when he ask you why you have to go to church on New Year's Day.

Hey! It's your blog. Talk away.

Jane R said...

Oh, I am encouraging him! He is a smart and thoughtful young man and I have full trust that he will reach his goal. It's wonderful when young people are excited about science, I am all for it. (And for using science for peaceful purposes...)

We have some great science faculty at the little college where I teach. You don't get the big research projects you would have in a research university, but you get to do research nevertheless, and to work directly and closely with professors who are really good teachers, and a few of them have their Ph.D.s in physics from M.I.T. so they are no slouches. One of them is going to teach a course on religion and science with one of my religious studies department colleagues this spring.

Oh that's right, the Feast of the Circumcision! I guess Vatican II moved that one along. Do you know there is some kind of art history and/or theology article or book on the, er, male bit of Jesus? Being an academic makes me pick up great trivia. So why ain't I at a cocktail party? (Nobody would be interested in that trivia but other artistico-theological nerds. ;-) I've got to get Doxy and lj and other NC residents here for a meetup. lj and I have already met, when I was in the Western mountains over fall break, but we must get Doxy here.) (And yes, I do have local friends who love artistico-theological factoids. One of them probably wrote one of those Jesus' bits articles.)

pj said...

Jane, thank you for the cartoon—it is perfecto!

And thank you for not calling me the illiterata, which is how I feel this evening. (I am stubbornly NOT taking cold medicine, and my head seems to be stuffed with wet towels.)

Happy new year, pal!

Jan said...

That fits me, too. Thanks.

Happy New Year

Ken said...

Grandmere et al., let me assure you that the people who told you the pursuit of a Ph.D. was onerous and often (not always) a waste of time completely nailed it. What they did not tell you, sadly, was that the entire "process" was designed to reduce the seeker to a recalcitrant adolescent. It's kind of like breaking a horse but the difference is you leave the horse some dignity.

One book about the pursuit of the Ph.D. said that the final oral defense is intended to send the new "doctor" off with the feeling he or she is still a hack. He or she will do that to the next students behind, etc., etc.

After I defended dissertation in November 1975, I came back to my class--20th Century Women's Literature--and a classful of young woman who'd brought me a bottle of wine and a cake. I was almost in tears. The ladies referred to me as "Dr. Wolman." I laughed and said for the first time "No, don't call me that. A Ph.D. doesn't mean you're smarter or more moral than anyone else. Examples? Smarter: Earl Butz, Ph.D. 1937, Agricultural Economics, Purdue. More moral: Josef Goebbels, Ph.D. 1921, Heidelberg, with a dissertation on Romantic drama.

You don't have to be a Ph.D. to know the real value. If you figure it out let me know.