habits of interrogating habits

16 09 2011

The task at hand, with vetoed implements, framed by the kitchen cabinets I want to paint last month already and the gorgeous sunflowers Matt brought home for me to welcome in the new school year.

For the most part, I look back on the intellectual “gains” of my PhD program as being a joke I’m still trying to find the punch line for (right up there with the alleged professional and financial benefits). But I do appreciate the emphasis, in course after course, even if it was often mis-applied as a hammer to use to smash any idea, practice, or approach anyone else believed in into tiny bits, just to show that the smasher knew how to wield a hammer, on questioning the necessity of institutions and habits institutionalized by repetition. I was always a “why should I?” kid anyway (this tended to make chore-assignments in my family home sites of frequent conflict), so the idea resonated, but the drilling certainly helped, and has useful carryovers in my post-school-istic life.

Right now, for example, I am sitting at the kitchen table in our breakfast nook with a giant bag of apples picked last weekend at Abbott Farms by yours truly and the man-and-child. I promised the child I’d chop them up for pies before he gets back Sunday, and I promised to do it before they spoiled–I also made some passing offer of having pie for our friend Hanah @ brunch tomorrow. So I must, today, slice apples for pie. I sat down with the first-step traditional implements: a shitty peeler that hurts my hands to manipulate and two bowls, one for peels and one for post-peeled, pre-sliced, naked apples. And then I stopped to think about that habit, the time it takes to follow, and the perfectly delicious apple crisp I made out of a few of these same apples for breakfast Tuesday morning, in which no peeling was involved. Everyone ate the apple crisp. Nobody complained. And a few more nutrients were probably sneaked into our bodies alongside the butter and sugar. So why in the world should I peel pie apples, just because habit says I’m supposed to?

Not gonna do it. Thanks, grad school 2.0.

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