A forest … more metaphor wrangling

Sacred site - angophoras

Sacred site - angophoras © Belinda Allen

Here’s a longstanding metaphor for my thesis. On reading Kamler & Thompson I thought maybe it could be more positively focused:

The forest

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
 (Dante – Inferno: Canto I)

The thesis is a dark forest, and I feel lost in trying to navigate its complexity. Feelings of inadequacy stem from the fact that I have not done major research before, and insecurity stems from my experiences with the administration and assessment of the process, which so far has been difficult and unclear. The whole field of qualitative research has opened up before me and seems so vast that I cannot see the end. But it is that I cannot see the forest for the trees – each unfamiliar branch of the literature seems to loom large before me until I can take the time to read and digest, it then takes its place among the multitude of trees.

On the other hand, ideas of risk-taking, exploration and liminal space are important to my topic. If this thesis is to be in itself a creative activity, I should relish the lost-ness, and even seek it. In Dante’s journey, the lost way is precursor to a difficult and even life-threatening journey (through hell) which is necessary for the experience of transcendence in the end (to paradise) – it is the hero’s journey, and so is the journey of my thesis!

The liminal space:
In philosophy, an ‘aporia’ is a philosophical puzzle or a seemingly insoluble impasse in an inquiry, often arising as a result of equally plausible yet inconsistent premises. It can also denote the state of being perplexed, or at a loss, at such a puzzle or impasse. Lather (1998) proposes a praxis of stuck places – where ‘aporia’ – the impassable passage – is a place of critical power. The kind of ‘new criticality’ espoused by Burbules (2009) suggests that aporia is a starting point for radically new thinking – that deep criticality depends upon embracing what seems to be unknowable and impenetrable.

So – the forest metaphor changes, from representing being overwhelmed and lost, to representing adventure, challenge  and opportunity – I am the creative orienteer, designing my own compass.