A long time ago in a graduate school far far away I used to loved immersing myself in science. Of course everyone is somewhat immersed in the vagaries of the particular projects in which they're involved, but I'm talking about much more than that; I mean thinking, reading, and talking about the broader themes of science. Where is the field going? What is the relationship between science and society? What is the role of individual scientists in the face of widespread superstition? You know, things like that. I read a ton of random science books and blogged regularly - in fact, some of the major themes of my Ph.D. research came out of random details that I read in older books that got me thinking about their modern applications.
Recently, I've been having more of those sorts of moments again. Conversations with fellow postdocs about subjects outside of the daily grind, big-picture speculations, even random pie-in-the-sky conversations about what we would do if we ever had our own labs. These moments may seem minor when you read about them now, but I must admit that they've had the effect of kindling a long-dormant 'fire' in my 'soul'1. I mean, think about any scientific research project: You spend a lot of time working away at answering a question, expecting that all of your work will eventually pay off. Some of these projects take years, and the way to keep the excitement up is to visualize the end goal. Can't it be the same on larger scales?
There's something to be said about appreciating journeys and not destinations, but ultimately there has to be a destination or else there can't really be a journey, can there? At that point it seems like just aimless wandering, and I think that I'm getting too old for that...
1My metaphorical 'soul' that is.