Hybrids. They’re everywhere these days. From hybrid cars to the modified foods we eat, mixed forms seem to be in style. I can’t think of myself as anything other than a hybrid. A person not welcome in academia isn’t expected to research and write books, but I just can’t seem to help myself. There a rare excitement in finding, and loving, a new idea. Academic writing I can do without, but the writing up of ideas, that is intoxicating. I’m afraid I can’t always share such things here since I don’t have release time for research and publication and it can take me considerable time to gather all my sources and write up the results. Meanwhile I’m just a working stiff like anybody else. A hybrid working stiff.
Describing the elation of a new idea is difficult. Knowing that something nobody else has noticed before is coming into focus, and that someone might want to publish it is thrilling. Okay, so many people find other things like sports or dangerous activities exciting. That’s fine. For me an afternoon in a museum or library can do it. You see, after finishing a big project like a book, it’s normal for me to go through a slump. People ask “what are you working on next?” and although I have many ideas racing along it can sometimes take up to a year before a front-runner emerges. When it does, however, all bets are off. Ideas like this can buoy my mood for days at a time. Now if only I had a classroom to test them out.
I mentioned The Glass Menagerie the other day. Plays can be, and often are, mirrors of reality. In high school we had to read Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Although that was approaching forty years ago I still remember our teaching pointing out the real tragedy was that Willy Loman had real skills that were evident to those who knew him. Circumstances, however, had compelled him to become a salesman. There is a difference between a job and a calling. Callings, however, are no protection against an economy based on greed. Perhaps we’re all being channeled into salesmen positions. Even if that’s the case, however, we know what brings us our sense of meaning in life. Although there’s no inherent reason that a person can’t research and write on their own, it can be a costly and time-consuming venture without institutional support. But a hybrid does things a little bit differently. And hybrids are everywhere these days.