I have never understood card catalog systems. Every time that I look at the series of numbers and letters in front of me on the cute little slip of paper that a kind librarian has given me, it is as if I am seeing it for the first time. I have to relearn the order and the classification and as soon as I get the book off of the shelf I forget how I got there immediately.
I never minded finding obscure passages in long forgotten manuscripts. In fact, I found the idea of looking at works that could not be found on the Internet and had probably only been checked out a handful of times to be invigorating. I loved the feeling of the old paper as I turned the pages that would never be creased from use.
And yet, the conclusions I came to by reading these tomes would be seen by even fewer people. A teacher, my wife, and maybe a handful of people online if I decided to post it. The research was good. The process was sound, but I’m not sure that matters.
I’m not sure that researching and proving your value as the connective tissue is going to move anyone to tears or to action.
The gathering of resources, no matter how good, is an act of keeping the status quo. No matter how well you glue them together or how much your community needs to hear the words you have written around your obscure references and impeccable quotations, you will never be aiming after something bigger than engaging those that are ready interested.
In a way, that is why those books I found through the hieroglyphics of the card catalog in the basement stacks or libraries will never see a wider audience. Those that care to look, will. Those that do not, must be given a reason to care.
Research will not change minds or create lasting change, it will only support or refute a change that is already taking place.
In other words, no. We cannot research our way out of our problems. The things we find can only help those that are already looking.
So, we must tell stories.
We must tell them to our children and to our friends. We must tell them to strangers, too. We must talk about today, not tomorrow. We must tell our stories, as they are the only ones that we truly know.
And then we must trust hat everyone else is doing their own research. We must believe that people will put together the stories and find their own way forward. Because we can’t focus someone else’s attention.
We cannot be the glue for someone else’s reform.
So, here is my story.
Today I asked a question. I answered it too. I did it so that I could figure out just how my wife is going to go to nursing school while I work from home. I did it so that I could be present while my children learn to swim. I did it so that the overwhelming voice of creative thought won’t creep in on me and strangle whatever focused attention I have left.
I did it because the reflection of my life is my life story.
Your last sentence is INCREDIBLY powerful, Ben. It definitely speaks to your character.
When we tag or star or archive, we are researching for problems we haven’t met yet. Or, at the very least, problems we see far on the horizon.
If Gardner is right that the qualifiers of intelligence are the ability to solve problems, the ability to find new problems and the ability to create something of worth to the community to which you belong; then research is key.
Research will not exclusively solve our problems. Indeed, research has done a good deal of problem manifestation. But research has also uncovered new answers and led to new questions just as often.
The word itself is pretty great. The prefix “re-” used to intensify the root “search” which comes from the Latin “circare” meaning “to go about, wander, traverse.” While it does take us to places we’ve been before. We also research to wander to knew problems and ideas.
I am making the point that everyone does research. Everyone is constantly
putting together the disparate pieces to find and exercise new problems.
What I want, though is for us not to stop there and say that we have done
our jobs toward creating change.
The stories we tell are going to convince the world that we have lived
something worth looking into. By telling a great story, I am going to coax
those who are otherwise uninterested into going to the buried stacks and
figuring it out for themselves. It is about teaching others to do their own
research and not relying on the research of others. Perhaps, I didn’t
actually write that into the post, though.
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Ok, that makes more sense.
I wonder, though, about stories worth not telling.
Do you have any examples of stories you wish would go untold? I would rather
have everyone express the stories that they have experienced and allow
others to conduct their research through them. What would we rather unhear?