It has been almost a year since my last blog post. Some of my readers have asked about my silence. I have been busy with school. Truth be told, pursuing a Ph.D. requires tremendous determination, courage, and even resilience. Coping with the privileged academic life is challenging. People outside of academia might ask why. I do not have a good answer for this and I am still searching for a good answer. I sometimes feel spoiled intellectually by the academic environment.
Once enrolled, you are always overwhelmed with intense readings and weekly response papers. In reality, you are reading around the clock, especially in a quarter system. That said, I’ll stop whining about my academic life.
I don’t have a special subject for my blog this time. Instead, I’ve been planning to reword my MA thesis so it’s suitable for the public. I know that academic works largely have a handful readers and mostly circulate amongst scholars, not general readers. There is an ongoing debate about whether our publications should reach the public. The more I read and think about the academic career, the deeper I feel that if your work is only read by a few people in your discipline or from other fields, you are basically wasting your time. I am far from enamored of the elite or academic mentality. I think one of the primary purposes of publication is to be read, not to be kept for oneself, but I also respect those who prefer small readership in academia.
Having said that, I would like to share a link to my MA thesis. My MA thesis is nothing fascinating, nothing revealing, nor consequential in terms of its scholarship. Comparatively, it is a simple touch upon Muge Samten’s traditional scholarship and a harbinger of my academic journey. It is simply a critical analysis of his autobiography. I think his autobiography is more about his world than his personal life. You will notice this upon reading it carefully. However, it is also worth noticing that my MA thesis wouldn’t be able to give you an overarching picture of Muge Samten and his scholarship. There are five other volumes, his collected works in Tibetan. My work is a small drop of his oceanic wisdom. He is truly a polymath!
Some of you might ask whether I will continue working on Muge Samten. My answer will be no, because, going forward, I would like to focus more upon the lives of the ordinary people who have been lost to history. They are ignored, despised, and even persecuted by the dominant society for their low social status, rural origins, illiteracy, and unpopular beliefs. At this point, for many Tibetan scholars, I think Muge Samten and his contemporaries are part of the “useful past” that somehow subliminally unfolds Tibetan history, driven by the concerns of the present situation. In other words, history is what the present wants to know about the past. Muge Samten is part of that past and we are the outcome of that past indeed.
That said, as the whole world is going through enormous challenges because of the coronavirus outbreak, the next few months will be different and probably much harder than what we are used to. I hope that practicing social distancing and self-isolating can open doors for new types of endeavors, perhaps even helping us see things in a new light. Stay home, stay healthy, and stay creative, everyone.