Sunday, November 25, 2007

What we export

In a story by Hurakami called "The Year of Sphagetti" (New Yorker abstract, a copy of the story; just buy the book and enjoy the stories), the narrator spends the year 1971 by himself in a small apartment cooking sphagetti of different sorts and engulfing himself, his books, clothes and records in its smell. The story ends with, "Can you imagine how astonished the Italians would be if they knew that what they were exporting in 1971 was really loneliness?

What do we export as Researchers? Mihai Patrascu articulated something in a different context that applies here: (paraphrasing) he said we export our lifestyle. In the best light, it involves being super-committed to our research, staying up nights and days in pursuit when an idea attacks, decent middle-class earning, travels world over and having local "friends/hosts", limited freedom from the vagrancies of the "boss/society/economics", and finally, an evolving notion of self and perhaps truth. Almost every profession (eg., being a journalist, an artist, whatever) exports its lifestyle, and it is worthwhile to knows one's export, in good and in bad lights.


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