I’m reading a dissertation. Might be the first time I’ve ever read an entire dissertation. When one gets to that stage one–I remember from the thesis–doesn’t always find persons keen to read it for one. Life is busy and how many people read dissertations out of the same curiosity one might read a book from?
But they need readers and they need good criticism. I have come to value good criticism so much I make an effort nowadays to provide it if I can. Takes time and effort, is what it does. Like writing for a blog. Criticism takes understanding too, which I’ve tried to cultivate a bit more of.
It’s like taking calls in customer service, I find. The problem may be evident to me, but the problem evident to me may not be the real issue. There is a problem in the customer’s head and that is the problem that has to be addressed for the call to end with satisfaction. Sometimes they’re struggling against something that isn’t going to work out in the end, but all they really need is to feel somebody else is struggling along with them to keep going and quit calling. They will one day have to cease and desist of whatever it is they insist on prolonging, but the time is not yet. They don’t want to hear they ought to give up, and so you do whatever you can to keep them going, and they go back to it.
“Hello. I’m trying to get this ring to Mt. Doom but I can’t find the stairs that are supposed to be somewhere in the vale of Morgul.”
“Are you really sure you want to scale and surmount the whole Ephel Duath sir? Go all the way to Mt. Doom?”
“I’ve been on this quest a long time. I just need to reach Mt. Doom and all I can find is an elevator here. I thought there were some stairs. Can you help me find them? Do you know anything about the stairs and when did they install an elevator?”
“They’ve decided they’re going to phase out those stairs because there’s no handrail and instead install an elevator straight into Shelob’s lair. Faster, more convenient, and Shelob just has to stand in the elevator lobby to nab people.”
“I guess at one point I saw an email about that but I’m not all that keen on the elevator and I still want to go by the stairs because that’s what I’ve been expecting up to now.”
“Well, I need to advise you that there’s a risk with that because of there not being any handrail, but if you’d like me to I can tell you how to find the stairs.”
“Please tell me how to find the stairs. I make official request. I’m not taking some elevator straight to Shelob.”
“Yeah, so you see a pile of rocks over to the left, go there, scale them–though at your own risk because they might shift under you–and then you’ll see the stairs.”
“I hate all this modern elevator thing they’re pushing on people. Cutting off options, you know?”
“I understand your concerns, it makes Shelob’s lair and everything that happens there too predictable.”
“That’s what I’m trying to avoid. Well, thanks for the help. I think I found the rocks.”
“Anything else I can help you with today?”
“Nope, I got what I want. Thanks!”
“Thanks for calling.”
And so on.
It helps one develop a lot of empathy I find, take other people’s point of view; and it ought to make the things I say about this dissertation especially precious, my precious.