Daily Archives: November 18, 2008

So what? The next question.

Rod Hart made my life miserable.

Not maliciously, mind you. But very intentionally. Because his frequent question was, “so what?”

Not the way a teenager asks that question when you beging to explain why something needs to be done. Not the way a person on the edge of depression asks that question, frequently followed with “who cares?”

No, Rod asked that question because it mattered.

And it made me miserable for years.

Rod was on my doctoral committee. He was (and still is) on the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin. He was one of three rhetoric profs. I took several courses with him. I knew that for any major research project, after you explained what you were doing, the questions you were exploring, the research design, the theoretical background, after you explained all of that, his question would be, “So what?” It’s a nice design. So what? It’s technically competent. So what? You have a firm grasp of the literature. So what?

Again, he wasn’t merely being cranky. For Rod, there were no self-evident truths when it came to inquiry.

Once you have your answer, said Rod, what difference does that answer make to anyone other than research designers and you?

And so, when I struggled for months with finding a research question, when I spent a couple years writing a proposal and another couple years writing my 431 page book (without the bibliography), I knew that I was going to have to answer “so what?”

And I did. And it was worth it. And it is changing your life.

Because you are reading this.

In 1989, I wrote “on the basis of this work I find my distrust of systems growing ever larger and my belief that the most effective form of religious persuasion is telling the story strengthened.”

And so, that’s what I do.

Think about your current project. If Rod showed up and said, “so what?” what would you answer?


This is another occasional entry in the next sentence series. Follow that link for the previous sentence.