One of the most difficult aspects, I believe, of working in academia is the seduction of the observational life. The observer sits in a position that is not as prone to gross error. Rather, like Statler and Waldorff, he (or she) spends much of his time critiquing the life and thought of others.
The participatory life, on the other hand, can be quite difficult. The participant cannot afford to be neutral. The participant must make a decision. He must deal not only in the realm of logic, but also in the realm of emotion. He lives in a world where ethos and pathos are just as important as logos. This is messy. It is hard to understand and even harder to manage. Yet, the living of life cannot be removed from one’s life. I can study history, but I fulfill my humanity by also living within it. I can study my own faith, but I fulfill my humanity by also living it. I can study friendship, but I fulfill my humanity by also having one. And on and on it goes. My humanity is fulfilled when participation is added to observation.
So, what is it that seduces so many in the academic world to give themselves fully to observation and minimize their participation? I think that a primary reason is safety. Where the observer notices the pain of a false idea, the participant experiences it. The life of the observer, simply put, is less exposed. Yet, it is also less lived.