In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. Absurdity does not mean “logically impossible“, but rather “humanly impossible“. In other words, there is a fundamental disharmony between our individual search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe.

In other words, there is a fundamental disharmony between our individual search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe.

I often feel as though this concept is integral to our lives in medical research. As human beings looking for meaning in a meaningless world, we strive to discover as much as we can–always pushing to move the line forward. To see what more we can discover. What we can achieve. This is the undercurrent that touches on every aspect of our lives as research administrators.

In our line of work we get a lot of paperwork and we get a lot of harebrained ideas that seem absolutely crazy. We’re often tempted to just turn that crazy PI away and tell them to ‘play by the rules.’ But it’s often the crazy ideas that offer the biggest payout in innovation and discovery. I consider it a lifelong goal to continuously support the absurd, crazy, and harebrained ideas that come across my desk. The crazier the better. If it breaks the normal rules to create something more original and more useful, I will move mountains to see it implemented in every division.

But it’s often the most absurd, crazy, and harebrained ideas that offer the biggest payout in innovation and discovery.

But don’t forget the show. Life isn’t just one person doing one cool thing, you have to see that idea grow and spread in order to truly make a difference. You’ve heard the phrase: Steal Shamelessly and Share Seamlessly. USE IT! If something absolutely crazy works in one area, share your results and implement it in every other area of the hospital, or university, or laboratory.

Steal Shamelessly and Share Seamlessly. 

Occasionally, however, this absurdity backfires on us. Instead of being excited about the unknown possibilities, we may get depressed about life’s futility. And, as Dr. Seuss so eloquently puts it, “un-slumping yourself is not easily done.” Many people can become bored with life, their work, irritated by the human condition and lack of progress and innovation. Here is what I say to these people: live your life with optimism. We do not live our lives and perform our work for ourselves. We do it for our children, for the next generation, and for the world at large that will live on after us.

Many people can become bored with life, irritated by the human condition and lack of progress. Here is what I say to these people: live your life with perpetual optimism.

You don’t have to have it all figured out to be optimistic. You don’t even have to have a good day to be optimistic. You could be having the worst day ever–and still be optimistic. Be optimistic that something wonderful, something crazy, something absolutely absurd happened somewhere today that is going to change the world for the better. 

Yes, absurdity is part of the show. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be lucky enough to be apart of it.