A lot of my writing energy in the last few months has been spent writing my thesis and other related projects. The current task is completing the draft of my methodology chapter. I anticipated this to be a dry, boring section to write, but, to my surprise, I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge.
Yes, there are some parts that are simply outlining the details; making sure all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted. However, there are also those big question to answer. What do I believe about the nature of knowledge? How is knowledge formed? And what are my non-negotiable underlying principles? I am using a lot of big words that a few years ago would have me running to the dictionary.
I am also asking deep questions about who I am, particularly in the context of my research. What does it mean to be a woman? A contemplative spiritual director? A church minister? These ponderings are especially significant as I see my self as co-creator of the knowledge I am seeking. The answers to all of these questions determine how I collect data, how I approach my sample group, how I analyse the data and the shape of my final thesis. Creating my framework of reference will colour all of my research. It will be the foundation to which I will refer when questions and doubts arise. Justifying my choices is a little like "soul searching". In grappling with this chapter I am addressing issues of integrity, good relationship, and my view of the spiritual life.
My thesis may be large and looming in my life, but in the whole scheme of things is a mere speck. I am wondering what our world would look like if we all had to create our methodology of life. What if we had to examine, in the same way, what is truly important to us? What if we really had to question how we were involved in the lives of others? What is we truly understood the underlying principles in our own lives that hold so much significance?
I dare say it would be extremely confronting. Instead of reacting to life around us, each choice made and each interaction or conversation would be held against our plumb line. I wonder what would change. I wonder what parts of my life I would need to look at closely in the mirror. If I'm honest, the "thesis"of my life would not pass. I am not saying this in a defeatist or "Woe is me - a sinner" type of manner, but more an acknowledgment of human nature.
The methodology I have chosen for my research comes from a subjective viewpoint. I am acknowledging that, as the researcher, I cannot be a passive, unbiased voice. This requires me to be extremely transparent in my writing about my insights and reactions to the data. It demands moving beyond reflective practice to a high level of reflexivity where I examine myself as I engage in my analysis.
We cannot go through life as an objective observer and, therefore, this same transparency and reflexivity is needed in a methodology of life. Perhaps knowledge of our own nature, an awareness of strengths, weaknesses and passions, is a great place to start. Recognising when we are not operating at our best and knowing how our own needs trigger unhealthy responses all affect how we relate to others and our world. Taking a step back from the to-ing and fro-ing of life is a bit like asking those big questions. What is it that makes me tick? It may appear like a dry and tedious task, but perhaps surprises await just around the corner.