Friday, January 4, 2013

Grieving for the babes


published December 19, MST page A5
The world was horrified to hear about the shooting of 26 people, 20 of them children aged five and six, by a disturbed 20-year-old man who had earlier killed his mother.  He eventually shot himself.
United States President Barack Obama was shown as shedding a tear as he spoke about the children whose lives were senselessly snuffed out.
The incident also sparked debates over gun control in the United States where access to guns is relatively easy.
The coverage trumped other reports involving children—the continung crisis in Syria, for instance, the destruction caused by Pablo in Mindanao, and the death of Afghan children who wandered off into a landmine while gathering firewood.
Perhaps the world has become desensitized to deaths from places where disaster and violence are a way of life.  By contrast, Newtown, Connecticut is a relatively prosperous, peaceful and closely knit community where children do “normal” kid stuff.
What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School is indeed a tragedy. But it is no more of a tragedy than the deaths of other children all over the world from causes ranging from hunger, disaster, disease to both systemic and random violence.
We grieve all deaths alike, from those covered extensively to those we never even know about.
A lot like life
Plunging into a semester of thesis writing is a lot like living.
First, you have to choose your topic. In a context where you are free to choose any topic you want, so long as you can justify its relevance to your program, this first hurdle is perhaps the toughest one.
Because it’s journalism, that field that talks about anything, and because you’re a journalist, which means you at least have a modicum of creativity, you more or less can decide to write about any topic that catches your fancy
Then again, not all would-be topics are created equal.  There are things you like, there are things you like better, and there are things you can really get worked up about.
Does it follow that you can choose the thing that you are most passionate about? Not necessarily.
Sometimes, it is just not doable. Either the data would be nearly impossible to obtain, you don’t have much time, you don’t have the freedom and the means to travel for your research.
So you ditch the topic and look around for something you like well enough, and something that you can possibly finish within three and a half months. Remember, if you want to march in March, you have to deliver the complete package before the end of February.
You write your proposal, pore over journals and newspaper clippings, and will yourself to find an apt framework and a humanly possible methodology to achieve your objective.
Defending the proposal is akin to declaring your commitment—not only to your choice of topic but to what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it.
When you are given the green light to proceed with your study (i.e., if your defense goes well), there is no turning back. You have settled. If at any point in the semester you have an epiphany about a better project, banish the thought that you can still pursue it. You’ve been hitched.
You find yourself staying late every night firming up what exactly you want to do. You gather data: analyze pages of newspapers, set up interviews with industry veterans, and realize that the more you read, the more you have to keep reading.
And then you write.
You sink or swim. You do a good job or you botch it. You stick to the plan or procrastinate.
Sometimes, and heaven forbid, you get a streak of bad luck. The sources won’t cooperate, the data is incomplete, nothing falls into place. You remember you still have a job and a household to run and relationships to nurture.
You decide to do anything but give up.
Everybody hopes for an outstanding finished product. We crave that A and, more than that, the feeling that what we produced actually made even a little difference.
Success—like love, or happiness —is a combination of hard work and serendipity, or as others will call it, God’s grace.
Life is truly a Master’s Project. Merry Christmas to all.

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