...Prove Their Worth...

"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back." - Piet Hein

A kind of running diary and rambling pieces on my struggles with assorted books, classes, and other things, as they happen. You must be pretty bored to be reading this...

Thursday, June 06, 2002

I have no academic focus. Not now, not ever. I'm interested in just about everything. Hell, I've got a disturbing hankering to read the new edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell, all 1400 pages worth. I want to read some kind of book-lenth introduction to evolutionary psychology. I want to read Gould's life's work, aka The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, or whatever the actual name is. I want to read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in the original. I want to learn Japanese (because it's not a latin-related language). I want to learn differential geometry. I want to learn about linguistics. I'd like to read about international relations theory. I want to learn to write well. I want to learn quantum mechanics. I'd like to learn to be a witty and engaging conversationalist. I want a lot of things, and I'll probably dabble a bit in a lot of them over my life. But I'm unlikely to ever have a well-defined academic focus.

There is a price to pay for the pleasure of having a wide-ranging curiosity. I have had to resign myself to the fact that I will forever be a dilletante in almost all of my areas of interest. I have wasted large parts of my teenage years in slacking and learning what I wanted, not what I should have been learning. There are consequences. I'm extremely unlikely to make any worthwhile contributions to any field I do choose to learn in depth. Take physics, for instance. It's a well-known fact, backed by assorted studies, that physicists most often make their big contributions as graduate students, or freshly-minted post-docs, in their 20s. This statistic applies to many other fields of creative endeavour.

I think I've finally learned to accept it. I'll learn what I want, when I want, how I want, on my own, to the best of my limited abilities. Hopefully I'll earn enough money along the way to eat and afford a few toys. The grandiouse plans of my teenage years, built on a foundation of slacking, daydreaming, and reading, now look like trifling (yet dearly regarded) little optimistic far-away sand castles being washed away by the tide of cold, hard, and bracing reality. There's something to be said for reality. It is cold, and it may occasionally be bleak, but it is real, and swimming in it can be invigorating.

I have learned to accepted all that. I think. Perhaps. It's arguably a curious form of defeatism, I suppose, but I've learned I prefer it to optimism which constantly accumulates evidence against itself. It allows for some measure of joy, occasionally, and that's all I can really ask for.


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