I like to walk. Walking, at my own pace, sometimes for hours. Walking, under the trees, alongside a river, on the beach, or in the mountains. Walking, alone with my thoughts, or chatting with my friends. Walking, among the crowd, to feel like a part of the world; or walking in the countryside, to get away from it all.
I don’t walk for the exercise; though it’s not an unhealthy leisure. I don’t walk as a means of transportation, to get somewhere; there are far more efficient ways to transit. I could run and I could cycle, that would get me farther, further away, faster. But I just want to take my time, to take the time to not be anywhere. When I walk, I’m out there. No duties, no tasks, no deadlines, no pressure. No information, no social conventions, no morale, no legitimacy, nothing. No me.
Walking, you appreciate the beauty of nature, the richness and complexity of a tree’s trunk, of a flower’s corolla, of a ladybug’s elytra. Walking, I can hear, see, smell the world without feeling overwhelmed. Walking gives me perspective.
I wish research was more like walking. I feel like a lot of the organization around research is goal-oriented. You must have a goal before deciding which path to take. A goal that is enticing enough to get you grants. Once the goal is set, you must take the most rewarding route to get there: the one that holds the greater number of publishable results.
Both pressures for grants and for publications greatly limit the number of acceptable research trails. You have to take the most efficient, most trodden path with sure benefits – and you certainly can’t take your time to contemplate the landscape. You have to go fast, have to be the first. You must get in the car and take the highway.
But it’s not the goal that empowers you, it’s the journey. Results may get you respect, recognition, fame; but only the journey will bring you enlightenment, joy and, ultimately, freedom. Choose the path for beauty and for truth. Then, don’t rush it; take your time, pay attention.