I am in something of a quandary. My passion, my drive, my greatest zeal is for philosophy—for the pursuit of truth, for understanding, for learning. These things, and especially the philosophical pursuit of them, are what I consider to be most worthwhile in this life. To this end, I would like nothing more than to take part in the scholarly life of philosophical academia. I am now in a position to pursue this dream—to perhaps enroll at a prestigious philosophy graduate program.
I hesitate, however. My reason is this: My mode of life has always been somewhat reclusive, and I must say I spend the greatest part of my time thinking about things which, I have found, the great majority of my peers simply do not care for. Due to this, and perhaps as well to my penchant for analyzing everything, not merely what is properly considered philosophical, I have earned what would be considered by most to be a handicap in this (American) culture: I have not learned how to interact, how to make friends—how to relate to average others at the appropriate level. This would not be a problem, of course, were it not for my being perpetually victimized by my drive to socialize, to be friendly, to like and to be liked. At times this drive propels me to distraction, so that I cannot focus, so that I cannot excel so far as I might otherwise. My options are two: Determine to overcome this drive, this distraction, and devote myself to philosophy, or give in, take a break, and devote myself to satiating, or, rather, to learning to properly attend to this drive.
Therein lies my quandary. I have made some progress toward alienating this drive, toward removing it in due time. This is not something I am sure I wish to do, however. I feel that I may always look back and wonder at what I missed if I do not take some time in my youth to be social, to experience the popular lifestyle. And, of course, philosophy graduate school is no place for cultivating the broader aspects of one’s social potential. Herman Hesse writes that “any life expands and flowers only through division and contradiction.” I have followed his intention in the past, perhaps when I should not have. I did not seek anyone’s guidance before, so I think perhaps I should now.
I apologize for the long prompt, but it takes some saying to really express my question as I need to. This is not a problem unique to me, I am sure, and I hope that some among the panel will be able to pass on some similar experience of their own or of another who they might have known, as well I hope and expect that other readers similar to me might benefit from your answers.
While the specific question here is clearly of whether I should go on to graduate school in philosophy or hold back and look into these other aspects of life, one might also consider my question to be one belonging to the broader frame of the implications of Hesse’s remark. So construed, one might ask, “Is it really necessary to challenge one’s entrenched manner of living in the pursuit of such unexplored drives, even when doing so may have significant consequences for one’s broader aspirations?”