I have a bad habit of starting research papers with a general topic, but without a specific thesis statement. Normally I manage to find a thesis somewhere within the reams of notes I’ve taken (on just about everything related to the general topic). Right now I’m working on a research paper with a general topic of the 5th century Nestorian controversy and, specifically, whether Theotokos (“Mother of God”) or Christotokos (“Mother of Christ”) is the appropriate designation for Mary (it was ultimately a debate about how the divine and human natures in Christ relate to each other). I’m having a heck of a time coming up with a specific thesis: debating the two terms is not within the scope of this assignment (15 pages), and whether or not Nestorius was actually a Nestorian (and thus a heretic) has been up for debate for 1,500 years, so I won’t be solving that one either. The syllabus’ specifics are nicely general (one option is examining the importance of a certain event or controversy to the development of orthodoxy), but for some reason I can’t bring myself to write a paper on the importance of the Nestorian controversy to the development of the doctrine of Christ. It’s got to be something more…but what?
It doesn’t help that that whole affair is a confusing mess of poor terminology and misunderstanding. I’d like to say that it’s a lesson in learning to listen to the other in debate, but I’m not sure if that’s a legitimate point to make for a research paper.
Someone told Dixie that I’d probably overdo things here at seminary and I’m beginning to think this person was right. I wonder if I’m trying too much to be a scholar of some kind, maybe impress my professors or fulfill certain perceived expectations, rather than simply be a student, wherever I may land in that department.
This paper ain’t going away. It’s due next Friday (October 30) and I will finish it come hell or high water, even if it’s crap. I just want this course done already.
The problem is that I continue to have a hard time balancing my time. On Monday I have a midterm in which I have to put on my Bonhoeffer cap and respond to a case study as if I were Bonhoeffer, based on what we’ve covered so far in his Ethics. But some days Ethics reminds me a bit too much of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (*petuey!*)–it’s full of brilliant ideas, but it’s dense and sometimes it takes a lot of focus and concentration and work to extract that brilliance from the text. Somehow I have to take Bonhoeffer’s thoughts and turn them into a response to this case study…
And then there’s another paper due a week from Wednesday, but if I hand a draft in on Wednesday the prof will read it and comment on it for improvement before it’s due. I may have to skip that opportunity this time around.
And I still have to keep up with my Hebrew vocabulary and grammar.
The difficulty is in knowing what to work on when. I have two problems: 1) I have difficulty with multitasking; 2) I have a hard time working with small intervals of available time. If I have 20 minutes free my tendency is to not use it for homework, because I think, “Aw, by the time I settle down and get focused, the time’ll be up”. But I have to capitalize on these moments. They are precisely when I need to do Hebrew, of course.
But what about that 1.5 hour block in the evening? Research paper? Exam prep? Reflection paper? What?
I’m quickly learning (or perhaps reminded) that seminary life is one of constant hope and looking forward: if I make it to Friday, all will be well. Of course, after Friday a whole bunch of other things are due.
It’s interesting how I have never developed much confidence in my academic abilities. I’m constantly expecting to be “found out”–as if I’m a fraud–and given a failing mark on an assignment. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN NEARLY 8 YEARS OF POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION. Why do I still worry about this? Honestly! Even when I haven’t started a major paper until 10 o’clock the night before the due date–not even cracking a book until 12 hours before class–I’ve managed to come out with good marks. So why do I worry?
Maybe that’s precisely it, maybe this way shoddy, mediocre way of doing things won’t work forever. It’s bound to come back and bite me. It just hasn’t yet.
Or maybe my subconscious is telling me, “Look, Marc: you’ve lived a whole life being successfully mediocre. It’s time for you to step it up a notch.”
Or maybe my standards are too high.
Or maybe I need to think better of my abilities.