Following the recent discussion of anthropology and religion, I dug out one of my old anthropology essays which I did at the end of my first year at university – now almost 5 years ago.
It was called “The Meaning of Life – A critical essay” and as I reread it, with some vague memory of it containing some interesting analysis, I found that it really was quite bad: Besides being just as pretentious as the title suggests, it was poorly structured, with bad argumentation and use of empirical data, and a very sloppy and uncritical approach to the theoretical sources used.
Basically, it sucked. But it was quite a worthwhile read, because it gave me a chance to compare how I’ve developed these basic skills of academia over the past 5 years. I mean, it would truly be awful to find out that I wrote better stuff back then, than I do now. But on the other hand, the essay did contain a uncompromising wonder and naïve interest that you simply don’t see often enough in academia.
So I took that old essay (written in Danish) and pulled it apart, and translated the bits into a sort of dialogue touching upon the same topics, but without trying to be more than superficially academic. It gives a sense of connection through time – to a younger self. To argue with yourself and compare notes. To revisit that old argument and use the dialogue form to ask all the questions that you still wonder about, but more or less have pushed aside. I can only recommend visiting your earlier academic self and negotiate your experience with your arguments of earlier times. It gives a sense of perspective, and probably brings you closer to what brought you to academia in the first place.
Don’t know about the answers, though.