Mountaineering or editing


I am working on my PhD dissertation. The last stage. Putting things together, trying to fit into a readable text experiences, books, articles, and data collected during the last four years in Cambodia. I have met many people who have gone successfully through this stage and they all described it as a difficult, challenging, intense, lonely, frustrating time. However all agree that it is worth it.

I have been thinking which metaphor better describes this period. I am divided between two: the mountaineering or the movie editor. I have not yet decided which one is the most suited.

Let’s start with the mountaineering one. The whole research process is like going uphill; however the climbing gets really steep only in the end. At time sit is possible to see the top, but the come the clouds to cover it. Then again, another sunny day, the top still there. Solid, not to far, but still a steep climb. Then again clouds and sun. I started the last stage with a heavy rucksack on my shoulder. Too heavy, in fact. I brought too many clothes, tent, trangia, shoes, etc. While climbing I decide to leave things on the way that I may or may not recover when and if I will come back the same way. Day after day I have the feeling that I have the right amount of stuff in the rucksack, but you can never be sure with those clouds coming and going.

I am not a movie maker and neither and editor, but I certainly like movies. I imagine the making of a movie. Kilometres and kilometres of film that is recorded: lines with actors, landscapes, details of a house, the skyline of an American town, the sun and clouds, the wind moving tree tops. All this to be the moved around in the editing room to make the story. Find into all these kilometres of film the right shots, images, lines, actors’ expressions to make the final story. This is more or less what I am doing now: search in all the papers, books, articles, digital data, hardcopies, and choose the quotes, the references that will support my ideas and make the story about Cambodia and their people that I am writing.

Yet I ma not sure what is the most appropriate metaphor. I have the feeling that once I reach the top of the mountain, I will see many more mountains all around me, until the horizon. All the things that, through this research, I leaned I do not know and would like to know. In the editing room, the kilometres of film can get entangled and something useful and interesting that I once noted down, may slip away in the pile of the material I will not use.

What to do? I do not have an answer, yet.