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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Humble Pie

Today I want to share with you a post of an acquaintance of mine on Facebook and a keen blogger , whose blog I follow (http://kleidungum1800.blogspot.com/). Her words are truly amazing and put so simply, something I have thought for a very long time. It has nothing to do with the purpose of this blog and, yet, I feel compelled to write about it.
Here are Sabine Schierhoff's words:

«There's a group of highly skilled researchers I truly think are incredible and they do not even have an academic degree...they are interested in everything and spend the whole day doing research, never forgetting that joy is also to be found in the most simple things and how much more fun it is to share what you've found out rather than to keep it to yourself. They do not work for fame or fortune, but solely for gaining a deeper understanding for life...you often see them smile and laugh and even a minor setback doesn't upset them for long or keep them from trying again...actually we've been one of them - probably years ago. Never forget that approach to learning things like you did as a child.»

There are several ideas behind this statement and that I would like to break it down for you:

1 – The idea of non academic people doing research
I like to call myself a self-educated researcher (autodidact) and there are, probably millions, of others like me out there.
There's is nothing wrong in being a non academic researcher. In fact, it is quite commendable. It shows that curiosity and the will to strive are still part of the human basic condition.
Being a non academic researcher does not lessen the value of the research, even if there isn't a scientific approach to it. Being an academic doesn't assure that either. Being part of an University doesn't eliminate the human ability to fail or approach research the right way, nor does it devalue the skills and successes of those who don't belong.
How many times have I witnessed that Praxis answers many of the academic questions. And by this I mean, those many times where a simple group of re-enactors has answered, in it's own way, something that academics have been puzzling about for years, just because the 1st group uses a particular instrument or garment instead of approaching it theoretically.

2 – Sharing the results of your research
Now here's a topic that has driven me crazy for years!
Firstly, I strongly believe in sharing. I've never been a selfish person so, therefore, I cannot understand those who are.
Secondly, I understand that by unselfishly sharing a research that has, sometimes, taken years to built, is a good way for others to steal it. But that is for those who are Academic researchers and for those who write books on subjects that have never been studied before.
The work of non academic researches is, often, much simpler and based on the work of others. But not always! There are times were, myself included, some subjects have been picked up for the 1st time in centuries. And yet, we share it!
Thirdly, the hypocrisy of those non academic researchers (and I include re-enactors in this lot) that behave like they were the nicest people around, but in fact never mum a word.
I believe in sharing research results, because sharing is teaching and sharing shows pride in your work. I have done so in the past, still doing it now and, most likely, will do it until I die.

3 – The personality of having the ability to smile at setbacks
How many times have I encountered (and the last time just this last week) malicious behavior towards my attitude and personality. Just because I'm easy going doesn't mean I'm stupid.
There's a common thread amongst those who are non academic researchers and that is their personalities: being able to still smell the roses, not having forgotten the joys of life, even when facing setbacks, including other people.
It is the fact that these setbacks exist that make our research taste even better. We strive on doubts and lack of answers. That is what makes us go on. And it is because we're such smiley faces that setbacks come easy to us. You don't need an ultra-serious face to be a serious researcher or to be taken seriously. The results of your work show that.

4 – Never forgetting you inner child
Now here's a good advice!
If it is true for so many other moments in life, it is specially true when it comes to research. The constant questioning, the constant curiosity, the positive attitude, the joy of self-discovery are inherent characteristics of childhood and have been forgotten by so many adults. Non academic researcher haven't.
We still nag with all of our questions, we still let setbacks slide down our backs, we still squeak of joy when we resolve a problem and we still continue to approach research with that same attitude of wanting to soak out all the marrow of life.

So, for all of those of you who have shown rude behavior and rough answers to those simple people who just want to learn and ask many questions: Humble pie!
An academic title or an academic research doesn't make you any better then the rest of us. Your knowledge, academic or not, doesn't make you better just because you have it. Your attitude towards life and others does!
And raising your hands and coming to the conclusion that one is just what one is (being humble) is one of the greatest and empowering feelings around!

A salute to all of the bloggers I follow because you are the words of Sabine Schierhoff!


carojon said...

Hi Sarah, I like your analysis. I guess the last three points would apply to life in general, ie the ability to smile in the face of adversity (Kipling comes to mind)' sharing and having fun.

The debate about the value of non academic vs academic research will go on as the "professions" strive to protect their position. You see the same thing in law and medicine. Professional academic historians have an interest in reserving the right to get paid for what they do. The best of them do not feel threatened by the efforts of the passionate amateur, because they recognise that before academia came along all the best historians were passionate amateurs. Like wise the best of them welcome the interest and are happy to credit those that bring new information to light, not for reward but just for he sheer pleasure of doing so.

Sara Seydak said...

Thankyou for your kind and wise words, Carojon.

Keith H. Burgess said...

Another good one Sara, more of it.

IndianRiverMan said...

points well made by both of you! don't let the stuff a rude ones get under your skin Sarah it is a reflection of their inadequacy if they cannot be civil. that sort of snobishness creates an unneeded rift between the so called academic professionals and the rest of us. they are in it for the money and the rest of us are in it for the passion and caring, therein lies the difference.

Sara Seydak said...

Thank you IndianRiverMan.
It reminds me of that saying "If you don't have anything nice to say just don't say anything at all", but in this case it should be more "If you cannot say it nicely then just don't say it at all".
About letting it get under my skin, what's the point? It would be a waste of my time. In Portugal we say "Things that are lower then me don't reach me" and in this case it might be true - I'm 6 feet tall. :)