2/05/2007

Agapeo Anthropous

So, I have just returned from a ten-day trip to New York to visit my two dear friends Kate and Amy, which was an absolutely glorious experience. I was able to spend some amazing quality time with two of my favorite people in the world, to see their homes and neighborhoods, meet their friends and roommates, chat with their boyfriends, visit their classes, cook pretty incredible meals with them, and experience their favorite cafes and hang-outs.

It was also my first time visiting the city, and I did a host of fabulous touristy things like walking through Central Park, visiting the Met and the Museum of Natural History, seeing RENT on Broadway, walking through Chinatown, riding the subway, admiring the skyline, marveling at the diversity of the citizenry, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, having a snowball fight at midnight in Prospect Park, and eating amazing pizza.

Also, I got to spend some time with my Great (in both senses of the word) Aunt Carol, which was, well, great; and, one of the Chipotle ads my sister's national contest-winning team created (The Dryer Spot, starring her boyfriend David--see YouTube links at right) was playing on the big screen in Times Square, so I got to watch that multiple times and soak in her impressive achievements at this early stage in her career. Basically, it was a rollicking good time, and I couldn't have squeezed more pleasure and fun into ten days if I wanted to.

But then in addition to all of that, what began as a brief journal entry to reflect on my impending journey turned into a five-hour, fourteen-page writing marathon filling the entire flight from Seatac to JFK, which resulted in my gaining a greatly increased level of certainty about what I want to do with my life, or at the very least the next academic step I am planning to take.

Previous to that entry, I had been wavering between the possibilities of an MFA, an MD at seminary, and a PhD in one of about nine possible disciplines, including psychology, theology, english, math, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and theatre, and was unsure as to exactly how I was going to proceed to narrow these options within reason so I could actually start looking into the programs of specific schools.

But recently, in response to various books I have been reading and my usual bouts of introspection, the idea of anthropology has slowly worked its way towards the forefront, at least among the possible PhD disciplines I've been considering. And in the airplane, at the window seat I always vie for, gazing down as I love to do at the fascinating patterns to be discerned in the indications of human activity visible from high above, I realized that anthropology is a little like observing humanity from an airplane flying high above human history, and the thought excited me a great deal. As I wrote, something began to speak to me about the Anthropology PhD, and the more I thought about it, the more sense it began to make to me.

Anthropology (or at least, what I know of the discipline, that is, the field I think of in my head when I use the word anthropology, which might well turn out to be more accurately termed sociology, but for simplicity's sake I'll stick with the first term, which I like because of its highly Greek origins) ties together my fascination with ancient languages, constructions, and customs, with my love of stories and the emphasis I realize I have always tended to place on people, with my enjoyment of examining patterns of culture, communication, beliefs, interactions, interpretations, systems, and habits, with my desire to understand and elucidate disparate societal circumstances in the modern world.

The academic world has always been one that calls to me, one in which I feel inherently comfortable. I would love the joint and balancing opportunities that a professorship would provide to teach and to study, to write and to edit, providing me with structure and security which I have come to understand I thrive in while at the same time leaving me sufficient freedom to determine the direction of my research. As a number of those closest to me have pointed out, professorship is something I would most likely be skilled at and find enjoyment in.

One of my main objections to throwing myself so deeply into the midst of academia has been a reluctance to hide away from the ills of the world, a desire to do something concrete and immediate to address certain intolerable circumstances I see around me. But I am now thinking that it would be possible to address these issues through anthropology, conducting research into the circumstances of people left disadvantaged by current cultural circumstances--the poor, minorities, social outcasts, etc. I could then work to impact their situations in beneficial ways using the methods I am best equipped for and most enjoy--careful study, sympathetic understanding, analysis of possible solutions, and the use of my powers of communication to initiate movement to change things for the better. It's really quite exciting when I think of it in this light.

Ever since I reached this realization, which was so long in crystallizing and yet seemed so natural and obvious and long-foreshadowed when it finally arrived, I have been suffused with a general love for humanity which is as significant and sincere as it sounds sappy. Each individual person I encounter seems beautiful to me, exquisitely so, in a way that totally overthrows our traditional, highly limited parameters of physical attractiveness. The only ugliness I see in people is in their moments of cruelty to one another. All physical traits, even those considered by the prevailing cultural aesthetic to be unappealing, are breathtaking to me in their loveliness, their humanity.

It is a feeling I wish that I could convey contagiously, although I'm not sure I can do so with words, at least not yet. At the moment it probably comes out sounding a little goofy and touchy-feely. But I can assure you it's glorious, and a particularly wonderful way to experience New York City, which is such a kaleidoscopic tapestry--if I may be forgiven the mixed metaphor, which I employ for the sake of emphasis--of humanity's variety.

So, that's my epiphany of the week. It seems to me that I have struggled through some of the more difficult portions of this year of experimentation and freedom and writing and solitude for the purpose of arriving at this moment when deep and ground-breaking realizations come rapid and breathtaking every couple of days. I actually have another area of inquiry I've started to explore, having to an extent digested the whole validation theory and this newly recognized anthropological inclination, but I will save that for a subsequent blog post, so as not to overwhelm.

As always, I welcome your comments/responses (I loved what I got back in response to my last entry--very heartening to see people reading and having such amazing insights into what I am saying here), and I hope that your life is bringing you some combination of peace, love, growth, and joy. Thank you for being a part of my life. You as an individual are a large source behind my love for humanity as a whole. I hope that you take the time to celebrate that fact in whatever manner befits your nature.

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