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“Other duties commensurate with status” 12 January 2017

Posted by Dr Moose in Chaplaincy, Life, Ponderings, University.
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Many years ago, as a student, I never knew what I wanted do in the long term. In fact all I really knew was that I wanted to know, to know more. It’s what fuelled my undergraduate Geographical Sciences degree, what underpinned the Master’s degree (Geographical Information Systems). Neither seemed to actually give me much in the way of employability as we call it now. (I’m sure actually that far more comes down to simple luck and knowing how to confidently sell yourself, which might better be termed blagability, the ability to convince a potential employer of your ability and potential, even if you are rather short on detailed knowledge.) Even when I embarked upon the PhD, the intention was as much about the discovery of knowledge as it was about setting myself up to impart such knowledge to others. The aim was as much to engage in research as to equip undergraduates. Even as I continued my studies a different avenue opened up, a life of ministry and service. A life characterised possibly as much by the expectations of wisdom and love as by the transmission of knowledge (which perhaps isn’t so far from the other value of Christian faith, that of truth). An avenue that happily required the acquisition of yet more lovely knowledge, this time in Theology.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that I love providing what I sometimes think of as guerilla theological education through the chaplaincy, and something a little more formal through the occasions when I’m allowed to preach, I’d never thought that I’d end up lecturing on the subject of my recurrent single session of input as a guest lecturer at uni: ethics. It comes about through a personal connection – a fellow member of the Research Ethics Committee. Attaining a seat on that hinged on the fact I’d done a PhD, despite there never needing to be so much as an ethics section in my research proposal. (Maps and trees, have so far as I know, no worries about you observing them, and computers then, and now, lack any ability or need to give consent).

All of which is something over 300 words to build up to the annual lecture for the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Health module, where I labour under the jaunty title of “There’s more to life than Bioethics”. The nearest I can come to a formal summary is trying to¬†provide an overview of other models of ethical thought than those commonly underpinning bioethics with a view to encouraging wider thought and informed decision-making. (Or ‘the faith-based values of the other may seem totally contrary to you but are actually logical and consistent’).

It also would fit under the heading of other duties commensurate with status that I never expected to ever do! Some different field of theology? I’d expect it. But ethics? I’m a faith practitioner, not an ethicist! (Best said in Star Trek voice and prefaced by “Dammit Jim…”) While I found the subject rather enjoyable, not to mention rather challenging, as I struggled with the realisation that I probably did not display a consistent ethical approach to life and faith, my only knowledge is a single postgraduate module on Christian Ethics from my time at Theological College, in 1999-2000. (In fact, is it even ethical that I teach it in the first place?) Teaching ethics is right in there with the time I was asked to sit in with a dysfunctional group while they planned a seminar to ensure that they actually did some work rather than bicker and fight for two hours.

Life is a strange thing, full of strange turns, chances and changes. Like the motivation that I wanted, no that I needed, to blog, and somehow ended up here. And that’s 5 minutes or so of your reading time you’ll never get back! (One of these days I might even write a planned blog entry. But once again, not this time).

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