Thursday, December 28, 2006

Unacademic Christmas

I'm very happy to say that I haven't thought much about philosophy or classics for the last week or so, mainly because we have been busy enjoying Christmas so much. When you have young children there really isn't much you can do except join in with the excitement and the chaos, the boxes and wrapping paper, the noisy toys and messy chocolates. But some others in my line of work are not, apparently, so lucky.
Some academics do, no doubt, spend most or all their vacation in the library (and we are indeed lucky in my Faculty to have access to the library at all hours) but I wonder whether it's really a good idea. When I was a student, the usual stance to take was that you hadn't done much work, were unprepared for the exams and would just have to wing it. Professional academics often take a different stance, explaining at length just how much they have done, at what long or unsociable hours and so on. Now, this might in fact be true. What is interesting is the extent to which some people -- in any profession, I imagine -- find it necessary to tell others and others keep quiet about how much they do or don't do. What should I do? I haven't spent the week working so should I feel like I am slacking off in comparison with my peers? (I certainly do sometimes feel that I should be working more and working harder since others seem to be doing more than me.) On the other hand, it would seem odd in various ways if I were to make an equally public declaration of the time I haven't spent working. Perhaps it would make me seem less in the eyes of my colleagues and superiors. Perhaps people would think of me as I used to think of the annoying fellow students who explained at such length how little they had done. The pressures of comparison with fellow-workers are not insignificant. They are presumably useful for employers and also for pushing ourselves to do more. But they can also be damaging, stressful and impede efficiency.
In any case, beyond all this navel-gazing, I'm happy to say that I'm enjoying my Christmas immensely. I have rediscovered how much fun Lego is, I've watched some excellent kids Christmas TV (top marks for the Charlie and Lola Xmas special...) and it has been great to have a week without the grumbles of college and Faculty. Just the odd reminder for a reference or two, but I had those sorted and ready to print before the vacation. And I had checked my references for a new book typescript early in December...

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