Honorable traditions and the way forward

Yesterday, I reflected on a tension that I can only characterize as a tension between two different wishes to belong somewhere. My example was the feeling that I have when I sit in a traditional Viennese coffee house, where Nobel prize winning books have been written, and the feeling I have when I sit in a vegan-friendly café that is a meeting point for the queer scenes. Both feelings are feelings of wanting to belong or being in the right place, but the two worlds that they refer to seem to be quite incompatible.

When I browsed through my facebook timeline today I was remembered of another context I know this tension from, and this is related to academia. On the one hand, academia is this progressive bubble where radical, sometimes utopian ideas can be developed and where one has statistically speaking above-average chances of finding open-minded friends. On the other hand, the gold standard for academia are still universities like Oxford or Cambridge, where age-old traditions enforce strict (and often absurd) rules regarding everything.

In this case, it is a bit easier for me to take sides: If I have to choose, I’ll take the progressive bubble. But there is still a tension: It has been one of my silly dreams to end up at such a time-honoured place one day.

Fun fact: I looked up “time-honoured” as a translation for the German word “altehrwürdig”. It was the second option. The first option I was given was “patriarchal”. So there’s a reason to go the other way, here…

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