Coffee and Contemplation
Jun 26, 2022 | 350
As I was cycling past the Oxford city centre on Sunday morning, I decided to stop for a cup of coffee. After grabbing my flat-white from an artisan barista, I sat on the sunny bench in front of Balliol College for some coffee and contemplation. As I was taking my second sip from the bio-degradable cup, a middle-aged white man in his shorts walked up to me.
“Can I join you?”, said the lightly-bearded gentleman.
“Yes, please.”, I nodded with a welcoming smile.
As we both decided to leave each other in peace for our isolated coffee experience on the same bench, a group of tourist gathered in front of us with a tour guide who was narrating the history of Oxford in an outstanding tone. Being amused by this, my bench-mate smirked, “I think I should join one of these tours just to educate myself on the history of Oxford.”
Myself: I have been telling that to myself for last 5 years.
The man: Well, I am just five times lazier than you are!
Myself: I see! 25 years in Oxford. That’s long! What have you been doing?
The man: Mechanical engineering in rocket engine. I am a Professor here. How about you?
Myself: Stem cell biology. Just finishing up my DPhil.
The man: So, what have you achieved in this DPhil?
Myself: Existential crisis.
The man: (laughing) looks like you are going to stay in research.
Myself: The evidences have stacked up for it. But, not sure if I am ready to leave Oxford.
The man: In my opinion, your CV looks very different when you are in Oxford than when you are out of it. Speaking out of my years of experience, don’t rush into taking any decision or follow any rule of thumb.
Myself: Unless my rule of thumb is “not to jump on the next train.”
The man: (laughing) Exactly!
Myself: How is your Sunday looking now?
The man: I have some meetings with my research team. I was away in US for a conference with Amazon Space Program.
Myself: Where about in the US?
The man: Vegas (both of us laughing aloud!)
Myself: Well, you can achieve escape velocity only in Nevada, I suppose.
The man: I am just surprised how much money these Amazon people have got. While NASA has to justify their projects again and again to the tax payers, Amazon can just pour money into projects. They can afford to fail again and again! They are now planning to create physical amazon web servers on the space that will run on solar!
Myself: And how are they going to achieve this? In other words, is industry research keeping up the pace with academia?
The man: They have collaborated with people like me for decades. They can just approve a grant of 7 million pound as if they are buying coffee.
Myself: I can imagine. Elon Mask can tweet that would alter the share price of Tesla and change his net worth with a greater margin than 7 million. However, I do support active industry collaboration. PhD students are now creating startups that will make my stem cells. So, I don’t have to worry about that part and do what I do best. Great thing about being in Oxford is that you can delegate every task to the best in the field.
The man: Exactly! So, word of advice again, no need to rush and to leave Oxford. Sip your coffee slowly.
Myself: (looking at my watch) Yah! I am in no rush.
The man: Well, this morning conversation can be a good example of the great things that happen in Oxford without any plan.
With a smile on his face, he stood up and disappeared into the crowd. I don’t know his name, nor does he know mine. But, we both have had a stimulation.
After that, I cycled to lab, took care of my cells and wrote this blog drinking another cup of coffee. Work has consumed life or life is just work.