The other day, I received a message from James Redfield‘s webmaster asking if I would be interested in writing for the web page. Confession: Yes, I did ask what the pay would be. Answer– it is a gift of love, but not money.
Even so, I’m writing. 😀
I didn’t really have to think long about what my first topic was going to be. My son reminded me that I needed to put a pen to a conversation we’d had that we’re loosely calling “Bandaids on Brain Tumors,” and my friend Amanda reminded me that I was going to do a blog or something on “Amanda Stew,” and a few other individuals chimed in with what they thought ought to be my first article.
However, when I asked my intuition, the answer was obvious: My first article would be a recognition that I am beginning my journey from the vantage point of the shoulders of the giants who have gone before me. And also a need to discuss a little bit about my dedication to citing my sources.
How do you know what you know?
In my undergraduate program, there were many papers to write, and I was fortunate to have an awesome professor (David Saarnio) who was teaching amazing research skills to undergraduate students. I learned to do research, to understand the research I’d read, and I learned to write about research. For one who’d never (previously) had the privilege to spend time among scientists, I can tell you, it is a different culture of writing and thinking. Specifically, to write in the scientific community, one must always know from where their information has come.
For example, if I say a declarative statement, I must cite the source of that piece of information. My professor asked me about each and every statement “How do you KNOW that?” He wasn’t being cruel or interrogating me, he was teaching me that most of the things I think I know are really things that I assume. He was also teaching me that assumptions are often not truth and ought to be exposed for their falseness or explored for their ability to teach us more about the truth. Science, after all, is nothing if it is not the exploration of truth.
There is a line in a country song that says “65 % of all statistics are made up on the spot” (Todd Snider-Statistician’s Blues). To my professor, every single statistic must be backed up with the source from which it came, and that source must also be able to be held under the scrutiny of scientific measurement and replicability. It was not just an education in research or the subject of our research, it was an education in really looking very closely at everything. More importantly, perhaps, it was an education in living in community.
Living in Community
For in a community, very rarely is one person so far “above” others that their word is an ultimate authority. Much more often, when living in community, we each have a piece of the puzzle, which we have gathered from our own perspectives, and if we combine our pieces, we can see the bigger picture.
So, in a community, if I were to say “I HAVE THE PICTURE” very often, the effect of my declaring THE TRUTH will be that the others in the community will be likely to ignore me and my truth in favor of their own experiences and their own truth. In learning, growing, and working within this scientific community, I learned that (1) any declarative statement must have a source, and (2) anything which has not or cannot be verified is probably tentative at best.
In other words, rather than saying “I HAVE THE PICTURE” (a declaration that I, little ole me, has the whole truth), I would say “I have a piece of the picture” or I might say “Perhaps this is the picture” or “This is the picture as I see it [from my own limited perspective].” “Okay, sure, so what, why am I telling you all of this?” you might be thinking.
I am telling you this, dear reader, because I find it important to introduce the idea that everything I know probably comes from someone else. Should you choose to continue reading, you might as well expect that I’m going to be sharing a little bit about a lot of other folks, as well as my own perceptions of what I’ve gained from my experiences. And I am sharing this also, because it would do most of us well to sit for a while and ponder the many teachers who’ve contributed to what we all know and have become.