One criticism that has been levelled against me on more than one occasion is that I think too much about how I go about my natural history study. That might be true. My post yesterday (about my current malaise) prompted Neil and Ali to respond (thanks chaps!) I had touched upon 'pan listing' as being a possible reason for my dissatisfaction and Ali (a fellow PSL member) wrote:
PSL enlightens me to how many million things I don't know. When you are working in one group you are always going forwards. With PSL you expand your awareness of ignorance so it can feel that you are actually going backwards. Or maybe it feels too much like a job. Nothing cools my interest in something more than the feeling that I "have to" do it
This struck several chords with me. In fact, it did more than that, it gave me at least two really feasible reasons as to why I feel the way I do at the moment. The 'expansion of awareness of ignorance' point is something that I've not considered before. It does make you feel as if you are going backwards, even if in the process your understanding and appreciation of another part of our wildlife has increased. And the 'too much like a job' comment is spot on. I don't mind getting the hand lens out in the field to check the presence (or otherwise) of hairs on a plant, but I shiver at the thought of staring down a microscope to see whether or not a gnat has got a three-barred prong at the end of its penis. That is too much like work - although what a mean little feature that would be!
I came up with a neat little analogy for all this today. If you can imagine a stunning photograph of open chalk downland, (with woods in the distance and maybe a river meandering across the fields at the bottom of the slope), rather than taking in the whole thing, I have been concentrating on just a tiny portion of the image, blown up to the point that I can only see a few pixels - meaningless blocks of colour which, although part of the final photograph, do not allow you to take in the whole scenario. Well, something like that, it made sense to me when I was thinking about it earlier.
Now, the World Cup beckons. Some of you out there might hate the idea of a month of football, but not me. I love it. And I don't have to think too hard about why I watch it...