Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage ;
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.
This is part of Walter Ralegh’s reflection on pilgrimage (1604). Let us reflect by reading it once more…
Whether you are excited by the purity of white gowns in Muslim’s annual pilgrimage to Mecca or if you are inspired by Christian’s pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela on the Way of Saint James, you must know the meaning of ambition. For the non-believer alike, this ambition may be of great significance. Imagine an atheist architect who craves visiting Florence to explore the beauty of buildings, or a biologist who searches to find a new drug for a certain type of cancer. They too are on a pilgrimage. And they also behold ambition. But sometimes between ambition and pilgrimage comes a term which denotes fear and doubt. That term is ‘suspicion’. Beware not to fall into the trap of this term if you are on your pilgrimage; not only for the sake of others but also for your own…
Now in a more realistic context, we often find academics in what I know as an overtly ‘poisonous competitive trance’! Extreme because some of us wish to be the only ones who go up the ladder of science and art, and poisonous because these group of intellectuals would do anything to stop others who are walking with them in the pilgrimage! What a pity for they only exhaust themselves… and when you are exhausted you must try to pull your own energy together again… Sciences and humanities are not ladders if you have not yet recognised. They are pathways which eventually must lead us to understand each other and our problems better so that future generations can live in a kinder world!
Having experienced this kind of negative attitude among intellectuals and having lived through ups and downs of this competitive trance, I have come to see what means ambition to me and what articulates pilgrimage in the academic world, the vast ocean in which I am a drop; nothing less nor more… and how else can it be? We are all only drops and whoever thinks of themselves more than a drop, we can assure them that they are unrealistic and have already mastered a distorted vision of the academe.
For the conference of Paranoia and Pain, we have so far received many abstracts from ALL OVER THE WORLD! There are experts from every continent and they all have put great proposals forward for consideration. The steering group and the organising board have been humbled by the variety of ideas and strategies presented here for dealing with paranoia and pain. How very fantastic…. For me, as the organising chair, bringing together this Variety into Unity is a most remarkable ambition. It has always been and I can hardly wait to listen to your work and learn more… we may find far more effective coping strategies with paranoia and pain. What better than coming together to understand and discuss negative emotions. But beware! for if your abstract is accepted, we do not want you to come with a luggage full of fear and doubt, to present your work and dash off! We want communication, discussion, and exchange of views. Come with a shared ambition to discuss negative emotions and to pave the way for the future generations in the field… Also there will be an international party, so don’t forget to bring little samples of your homeland, so we can celebrate a night of cross-cultural setting in one place!
The steering group is going to meet shortly and we will keep you informed in a week or two. If you have not yet submitted an abstract, do not worry. The deadline is extended until the 30th of November. Email your work to email@example.com
Dr Maryam Farahani
School of English, University of Liverpool, L69 7ZR