Research into Art
Research could help us understand the Arts, and Arts could help us understand Research. Dr. Godwin Kodituwakkau, tells us in his book, 'Paryeshana Lokayata Pivisemu'.
Man's thirst for knowledge has been always insatiable. From the day of his birth, from the moment he opened his eyes, he has been thirsting for knowledge. From the time he can utter a few words, he begins to ask questions, he wants to know, he wants explanations. It is this thirst that has made it possible for man to move ahead of the rest of the animals, and for his civilization to grow so rapidly. Whether such advances in science and technology and commerce benefitted man and the universe is a separate issue.
It is this thirst that leads man to investigate, and to research. We were reminded of our own term 'Gaveshana' by Prof. Narada Warnasooriya, at the Press Council weekly discourse chaired by Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, on Dr. Godwin Kodituwakku's book. The original meaning of Gaveshana is considered as the search for lost cows. This would not have been just a wild disorganized search, but would have been well planned, based on the habits of the cows, the paths through the forest they could use, places where they would have strayed previously and all such factors. It would not have been a wild goose chase.
Dr. Kodituwakku has dedicated the book to "our young generation thirsting for knowledge to build their future world". 'Paryeshana Lokayata Pivisemu', written in simple language, is a roadmap for our youth to find their path to a stream of fresh cool water to quench their thirst. As Prof. Warnasooriya explained, we should always drink from a fresh flowing stream, and never the green slime on a pool of stagnant water.
Unfortunately today the thirst for knowledge gets turned off at a very young age. Some parents are too busy to answer all the non-stop questions raised by their children. They would either brush them off with a silly, meaningless response, or sometimes even warn the children not to ask so many questions. It could continue at school, if the teachers are not responsive to children's questions. The children would begin to think that it is wrong to ask questions, that it is wrong to attempt to find out about things, about what is happening around them. Their intelligence is further curbed by the time they enter grade 3, because the mothers push the children into 'total immersion' for the grade five scholarship examination. By the time this hurdle is crossed, the children have become robots programmed to 'study', with one objective, of getting through examinations.
It is probably why we do not find much research in any field in our country. Most research that is done is probably to jump one more hurdle, just to get another academic qualification or a position at a university. We hardly hear of any post-doctoral research projects, or publications. We do not hear of our academics engaging in any research during their sabbaticals. But we hear of plagiarism in scholarly publications, which had led to even 'academic ghost writing'. (Daily News March 5th, 2014).
Thirst for knowledge and our curiosity also leads us to the famous questions, which Buddha left unanswered, recorded in the Avyakata Samyutta. There were several questions which the Buddha is reported to have refused to answer. Among such questions were the existence of a self, Buddha's existence after death and about the cosmos.
Dr. Kodituwakku stresses upon students, that when we do research in whatever field, we need to be disciplined, we need to select our research objective with care and we should be able to share our knowledge. We should also be careful not to steal the work of others, and wherever we use data published by others, that we should acknowledge them.
Doing research simply for the sake of doing it, in order to publish a research report should never be our aim. We all have limited time, limited resources, and there are innumerable areas where research is urgently needed. Extending the vase-life of cut flowers by using chemical preservatives may not be one such urgent need. Flowers are meant to remain on plants and not in vases.
The annual 'Ig Nobel' prizes are awarded for Improbable research. Research that "first make people laugh, and then make them think". At their website, improbable.com, we find a quote by Isaac Asimov, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka' but, 'That's funny...'". The 2013 Ig Nobel prize for medicine went to a Japanese team "for assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice", and the Probability Prize for the study "Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand?".
The thirst for knowledge is unquenchable, and should always remain so. We have to remind ourselves to be "ehipassiko" (see and experience for themselves) rather than imprisoning ourselves in "evam me sutam" (thus have I heard). We must also share our knowledge. Going digital with all our research will be our greatest service to our future generations. Research data should be accessible by all, from anywhere, anytime, and for free. No one should have the right to monopolize, control, deny access or make a profit from their discoveries. "The creators who thrive today are the ones who use Internet distribution most intelligently. In fact, the ones who are most generous with their work often reap the most reward. People used to think of reuse as stealing; today, not letting others use your work can mean irrelevance." -Cathy Casserly, CEO, Creative Commons
Let me end with a short poem by the Nepali poet, Prakash Subedi.
"I opened my eyes to see the world
I closed my eyes and saw the world".