In this post I’d like to reflect on a tension that I consider to be quite widespread within academia. ‘Critical thinking’ is often extolled as one of the core virtues necessary for the intellectual life: much university-level teaching is geared towards developing this skill, and it is viewed as foundational for effective research.
Is gentleness something academics should aspire to? If a colleague or a peer described you as gentle, would you be pleased, or a little worried?
It won't be news to anyone reading this blog that life as a researcher – perhaps particularly life as a doctoral student – can be, and often is, very isolating. You're working on a niche topic, which few other people may understand or seriously care about; your day-to-day research is self-driven and self-directed. Particularly in the humanities, there is often little to no organised time with peers.
'Where do you see yourself in five years' time?' It's a classic interview question – and one which I'm very glad I've not (yet) been asked. Have you ever been tempted to answer it with 'If it is the Lord's will, I will live and do this or that' (James 4:15)?