Starting something new

So my book came out in February of 2009 and it has been an agonizingly slow process to choose another project. Of course, writing the book was agonizingly slow too. So many things I want to do. So many things to distract me from a new research and writing project.

Because research and writing are hard and it’s so much easier to let the demands of daily living eat up your time. I knew one thing for sure, though, I was NOT going to write about religion. I was fed up with it. It had, in the process of studying it, become foreign to me. I was puzzled by how narrow and exclusionary it seemed. How rigid. (And I was studying liberals.)

One thing I was sure of–I wanted to write a book for which I only read books I wanted to read and that was not about religion. I decided I would write a book about recreational vehicles and the culture of the road–since I have a fascination with little houses on wheels and can spend hours on the internet looking a pictures of them. I even taught one of my classes on road culture.

But it didn’t feel right. And because scholarship is as much about intuition as anything, I kept thinking about it and asking myself what I really wanted to do. If I were reading the books I wanted to read, what would that mean? You probably know what’s coming.

When I thought about it, I realized was reading a lot about Buddhism, a lot about nature and landscape, and a lot about road culture, with some New Agey stuff tossed in for good measure. Then I had an epiphany of sorts when I realized that many of the ideas and books that interested me originated in the years after 1965 and as a result of the influence of Asian spirituality. And all of a sudden I knew I wanted to know how that happened–even if it does mean more religion.

So, that’s what I’m doing. I’ve got a big question I’m working on (make that huge) and my job is to turn that into a doable project over the next couple of months.

This project engages me in two ways. First, there’s the historical stuff: What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? And why is it important? I like those questions. I think they are interesting. It’s what I do for a living (asking and answering those questions). But this topic also engages me on a personal level. I find the ideas fascinating–dharma, sangha, buddha nature. I find myself engaging those ideas in a way that is more personal than historical, and I’m hoping this blog will give me a place to write about those ideas from that perspective.

And I’m going to learn to write shorter posts…with pictures.

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About Susan Myers-Shirk

Professor of cultural and intellectual history
This entry was posted in asian spirtuality. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Starting something new

  1. Gib says:

    Zero is lonelier than one, despite the song made popular by Three Dog Night back around 1970. And although zero is one of Thomas Pynchon's favorite numbers, I think your blog would look better with 1 comment instead of o.

  2. I knew you'd find a way to put Pynchon in there. I assigned one of his stories in my cultural history class this semester. That should make you happy.

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