Summer is approaching and my research is behind schedule. What to do?

Trying to make sense of the past that lives in each of us could be a full-time job but for the reality that the labor does not pay the utility bill or the mortgage unless you arrived, PhD dissertation in hand, and then parlayed it into a national best seller and a tenured position . Given the current economic and academic landscape that arrival occurred sometime during the Jurassic period.

For those who continue to scratch and dig into the past with or without pecuniary compensation the struggle to unearth understanding involves a number of issues. One of these is deciding where to begin the search. Most of us have a wide variety of options. “My family came over on the Mayflower” has the attraction of lending deep-seated substance to personal history, but is likely to be rewarded by a harsh reality about the family’s journey to the present. Pure curiosity combined with the inspiration of a favored mentor leads some into the breach of the past; such is the birth of many a M.A. thesis. For others of us the confrontation of a family member’s personal experiences open the portal to the maze of a “place where they do things differently.” Hence, the shadow of Saipan hangs over my trail.

Scratchers and diggers face an additional challenge. How to stay motivated. The past, especially the personal past, is seldom easily tilled soil.  Like Death Valley and Mount Tapochau on Saipan it is often a dense tangle of bush, burned-over sticky sweet sugar cane memories, and hard, sharp, porous, unyielding rock. As I pursue my own quest into the borderlands which define my story and my father’s I need and find external motivation in the work of my friends and colleagues. One such place is the blog ( of my longtime friend and colleague. His latest entry about the difficulty of teaching the Vietnam War as history is an example. The Boss’s exploration of how to deal with that which is too personal to permit perspective reminded me of the necessity to push on and on in the pursuit of finding meaning in our personal pasts.

Thanks, Boss, for the spur as I  spend the summer once again digging in Death Valley.



  1. Big Guy,
    Good luck in this summer’s labors “in the valley.” I know you can do it, and I’m certainly willing to help if you need me. As usual, you’ve hit the issue in the nub.


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