Follow by Email

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Desperately Seeking My Thesis Statement...

One of the things I need to do to finish my degree is write the thesis paper for my capstone project, which was a comparative study between the military industrial food complex (fast food, GMOs, monoculture and gentrified work structure) and the rising tide of the Slow Food movement (organic farmers, home cooks, homesteading and independent living). I gave the presentation for this project before I moved to Seattle with the intent to write the paper and send it back within a year. But since I had no money to finish the degree or pay the college, my grades got locked up and submitting the paper wouldn't have done me any good anyway. So it didn't get written. All my research is stuffed in a box in a shower stall that we use as a closet in the laundry room.

In light of recent events, I've been thinking much more about my project than usual. For seven years, I have continued to think about it daily and feel incomplete for it's lack. After spending so much of my life unable to decide exactly what I want to do with my life (vicious circle!), the fact that I have continued to think about this project, to actively keep my information on it current, to write sections of it in my head as often as I do, is a huge sign to me that this is, in fact, the right path for me. But over the last couple of days as I have finally faced a reality in which I could finish the degree and move on to the next step, my mind has become consumed by it.

Over the last few years, I've mostly ignored the box I stuffed all my work in and pointedly avoided attempting to write anything about it because it just seemed so huge. I couldn't decide where to start writing or with what words. The story of humanity's relationship with food is absolutely enormous; in taking on this study, I took on all of human history, all of human culture, and much of what it means to be human. Where do I start that story - at the beginning, or at a place more familiar to a wider range of readers? I want a work that will get me graduated but still not give my professors a full-length book to read. However, I've also always wanted a piece that I will be able to expand upon. The intent has always been for a finished piece that actually is book-length, informative, interesting, accessible to any reader and, hopefully, publishable.

Of course, I know many people who would tell me not to worry about those things and just write something that will get me graduated - deal with the rest later. But this is one of very few things in my life that I've honestly just needed to be exactly right the first time. This paper represents years of work on my part and is a key component to the launching of my career. And, frankly, since I've been in stasis, I've had the time to think about it.

A couple of years ago, I hit a place where I lost the forest for the trees and no longer really knew what I was looking at. I'd over-thought the issue of where to begin by so much that I just didn't even know what I studied anymore. It all became a jumbled mess in my brain with no beginning and no end and no clear cohesion. That was around the time I started to give up on everything and tried to force myself to accept my fate and slip quietly into my mediocrity. When I couldn't see my work even in my mind anymore, I felt like I lost myself. It's been a disturbing, scary, sinking feeling of loss, what I've always imagined Purgatory would feel like as it drags on and on; I had found my calling (FINALLY) and then fucked it up and lost it, and the longer those fields lay fallow, the more it seemed they'd never be sown again.

Then as soon as I knew I'd be able to pick it up again and finish - despite a very long, uphill, unpaved road to get there - my research sprang back into my mind as if it had been trapped in a box too small to hold it any longer. Suddenly, I can see what I couldn't see even when I was actively working on it during my last year of college. I feel like a switch got flipped and flooded the room with light so I could see all the things I've been mentally tripping over as I wandered through dark and cobwebs. All that light screamed at me, "Jesus Christ, you idiot, you start at the bloody beginning!"

THE BEGINNING! Holy rusted metal, Batman! The fucking BEGINNING! We simply cannot begin the discussion of the human relationship with food anywhere other than evolution. It cannot be done and be complete. To make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe; I have no doubt that Sagan understood the significance of this idea. It took millions of years and a lot of food and a lot of changes in our relationship to food to get us to the first apple pie recipes in the late medieval era (which, incidentally, contained no sweetener and you didn't eat the pastry part of it (which, incidentally, was called a "coffin")).

So we begin.... at the beginning. I realize now just how far I'd slipped to have been confounded by such a simple and obvious thing. But now that I know where the beginning is, I know how to break the rest of it down. And now that I can break the rest of it down, I can see exactly what I need to do to update my information and build EXACTLY the piece I want. So much has happened in this field over the past seven years that there is not only simply more information readily available on the subject, but conducting more research is easier as well. Eight years ago, I didn't have the means of conducting online polls and surveys as I do now, farmers are more accessible than they were a decade ago and the world at large has begun to actively see what I see as evidenced in recent court rulings and governmental policies (though still mostly overseas) in regards to Monsanto, GMO crops, the meat and dairy industry, the restaurant industry, school lunch programs, as well as the general cultural and political wars between conventional and organic, which could also often be posed as a war between materialism and anti-consumption.

However, what I still don't have is a thesis statement. <facepalm>

No comments:

Post a Comment