I spent much of twenties and early thirties in a fog of existential angst. I was desperate to figure out my place in the world. My path was not straightforward and it required learning to live with with tension of a strong pull both into spirituality and into science.
Just under five years ago that tension was resolved, somewhat, in finding a position in academia where I could be a chemist and entertain my intellectual curiosity in philosophy. At first, the interest in philosophy was expressed through education, but over the years I have found myself coming closer to integrating spirituality into my work life. This came to fruition about nine months ago with a research associateship in the Faculty of Theology.
I had a very strong sense when I accepted the job at Stellenbosch that I was somehow answering a vocational call. By this I felt strongly that I was in the place I was meant to be, doing the job I was meant to be doing. It wasn’t clear then either how long I would be here, or quite how the different elements would combine. But I developed a picture which represented to me the integration of the different elements.
At the time I wrote the following:
‘The logo is three benzene rings. The symbolism is a truly chemical one. The three rings are bonded together, they exist in the same plane and the electrons which form the π-bonds (the double bonds) form a single conjugated system. It is impossible to relate specific electrons to specific π-bonds or even to a single ring. In terms of my research project this means that education, philosophy and synthesis are all interconnected. Synthesis has a dual meaning. It means both the synthesis of new molecules and the synthesis of ideas and knowledge areas. In starting this research initiative I intend to bring together my background in spirituality, my knowledge of chemistry, my enjoyment of philosophy and my passion for education. Quite what that will end up looking like, I am not sure. But for the first time in my life I feel like I have a job that doesn’t require me to ignore half of my being. I truly believe that I have found a project for which I am uniquely qualified, and a space in which to explore the possibilities that it brings.’
Almost five years on I think I have finally stumbled into an intellectual space which just may afford the integration I envisioned then. It is truly exciting.
I am reminded once again of the importance of attending to discernment. Paying attention to the subtle clues and trusting the sense of ‘rightness’ when it emerges, even if it doesn’t quite make full sense just yet.