Penn State

Michele L. Shaffer - associate professor of public health sciences and pediatrics, Penn State College of Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Book Title: The Wind in the Willows

Author: Kenneth Grahame

Book Description:

The adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger were wonderful stories for me as a child. They remain especially meaningful to me while working in academia. Mole is a gentle fellow, Toad is an ostentatious braggart, and Badger is the reclusive stalwart. But, it is Rat that appeals to me most in adulthood as a researcher:

As Mole explains, Rat has the sharp sense of reasoning needed for research:

“You argued it out, step by step, in that wise head of yours, from the very moment I fell and cut my shin, and you looked at the cut, and at once your majestic mind said to itself, ‘Door-scraper!’ And then you turned to and found the very door-scraper that done it! Did you stop there? No. Some people would have been quite satisfied; but not you. Your intellect went on working. ‘Let me only just find a door-mat,’ says you to yourself, ‘and my theory is proved!’ And of course you found your door-mat. You’re so clever, I believe you could find anything you liked. ‘Now,’ says you, ‘that door exists, as plain as if I saw it. There’s nothing else remains to be done but find it!’ Well I’ve read about that sort of thing in books, but I’ve never come across it before in real life. You ought to go where you’ll be properly appreciated…”

And Rat’s discourse on boats provides the best explanation I’ve read of life in academia:

“Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do…”


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