Monday, May 28, 2007

Reflections on Senility

A few things occurred to me after producing the latest poetic post.

At the moment, I am sitting next to two people who I haven't seen much in the last 12 years. As far as I know, they work together in putting together theatrical productions in Columbus. Whereas theatre is not part of my life anymore, it still remains strong in theirs. This is not uncommon. The potential for success in theatre is certainly not negatively correlated with age until a very old age. In fact, it may be positively correlated for most people, especially those who do not seek fame and fortune.

Similarly, I enjoyed writing that little poem. I also enjoyed writing my thesis and tracing the improvements I have made in my writing and presentation over the past few years. However, I have not enjoyed the pressure on me to be extremely productive before I turn 30 (or even 28). In many technical fields, real progress is expected at young ages. For whatever reason, progress at "old" ages is not possible or simply not favored.

This brings me to think about one of the older professors in my department. I have never had a class with this professor, so I know nothing about his methods of technical discourse. However, I do know that he paints, writes poetry, and is working on a fictional novel at the moment. I imagine that he has been working on that novel for a long time, and may never finish; however, he seems to me to be the proudest of that work compared to the other things he does now or even has done. He's not an emeritus professor, but he certainly is the age of some of the emeritus professors in the department.

I also think about the May 26 show of A Prairie Home Companion, which featured Billy Collins [1, 2], the two-term US poet laureate. The show also touched on age and writing professionally.

As I get older, either through experience or neurological development, my ability to understand things, retain them, and write matures. Because of this, I'm becoming more interested in the art of writing than I am my technical field of expertise. I think this is the reason why researchers in technical fields enjoy the idea of becoming a writer respected simply for the ability to write. For, while their ability to make technical progress might be impaired by their age, if they can become great writers, their ability to do that can only increase with age.

So that's a great thing. I'm excited about it. But in the meanwhile, I really must get back to work.

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