Dec 26, 2002
I am at Theos Coffee House, my first visit in months and months. Outside my window seat are three regulars, youths dressed in black, spikes, tattoos, colored hair (or no hair) and with an overall anarcho-industrialist look to their fashion. I am compelled by desire to talk with them. What do they know? What insights do they have? I look at my life’s philosophizing and the great impact of emotional experience. Am I the cool headed, reasoning philosopher? Dare say that I am not. But instead I rationalize the occurences of my life. I do not hold that I have any greater intelligence than others, particularly in my own life affairs (I’ve made some dreadful choices), but if there is something which I might ascribe to myself it is the equal time (or attempts to) given to different ideas. Wherever I have looked there has been a question left unanswered or the answer was unfulfilling for me.
I thoughtthat my first book to be checked out from the new library (I just visited it during its opening day) would be appropriately enough, Dicken’s Great Expectations. The new library is wonderful. It is all that I had hoped for. I walked around the library and soaked in the aesthetic quality of it all. Weaving in an out of aisles and smiling at adults reading books to children. How much of the problems in our world would diminish if we spent as much time reading to children as we do preening about like the neurotic peacocks we are? I talked with one fellow about the beautiful library and he said that it better be nice, as much as we paid for it. Another person whom I had a conversation with was somewhat dismayed over the curving facade, citing expenses to build such. I rebel against such notions. The library should be the heart of the city. If there is one building that a city should pour its resources into building large, luxurious, beautiful, and pleasing to the heart and eyes, it should be the library. It should be a building where the mind can expand, where the heart can beat, and the eyes wander (wonder). This library does this and I am all the more glad for dirt roads and pot holes in every street if our library is of such quality as this! If you do not nurture your own soul, your inner self, it matters not what you do to your body. When Oregon thought they had found an usurper to the tallest Douglasfir (one word because it is not actually a “fir” tree, it is often mis-named in newspaper articles as two words), it was blown over in a windstorm and found out to have a rotten core. The library is home to the human experience, a universe of ideas, and it is the core of the city.
I moved along the library, soaking it all in and found myself in the reference and new books section. My eyes fell on a single book, The Essential John Nash. Yes! I had been wanting to read some of Nash’s work, especially after the movie A Beautiful Mind (one of my favorites!) and I make no apology at having been lead to Nash from a movie. To think such is at the height of absurdity. Three books down was another book which drew my attention, the gargantuan 1400 page The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould. Oh my, what a find! What a joy! I cannot wait to crack it open!
In reading the opening pages of “Evolution…” I am given Darwin’s stance that his readers (of “Natural Selection”) should “always treat obvious truths with skepticism“, and that he challenged the definition of science as “organized common sense”. I would do well to remember this.
Whether it is a psychological condition or a genuine insight into ability (I am short of saying “fate”), I believe that I have within me a ground breaking idea. A concept which will change the world. When I first began college and study of psychology I thought for sure that the discovery would be one of human personality theory. When asked by the dean of admissions of UAM in 1995 why I wanted to come to college, I answered in all seriousness and earnest that I was to develop a new theory of psychology. Whether it was this spark of enthusiasm or my being liked by the office of admissions (for I had paid them many visits and had become close friends with them all) I was given a full scholarship for my 1st year. I did not have the high school grades (I almost failed my senior year, due to lack of effort and direction), nor the academic background to ask for such. I scored quite well on areas of the ACT where one was allowed range of thought, but poorly in areas where I should have had exposure to such in school (calculus in high school? I never passed pre-algebra!). Yet I was prompted by the assistant director to apply “just for kicks”, even though the application deadline had already passed. I see now in hindsight that someone had already set their sights on me for a scholarship and that I was going through the motions. The person responsible is one of the rarest souls one will ever meet on this earth in any time and her friendship with me is truly a high light of my life. I did not expect anything to come from my application and when college started and I got in line to pay my bill, I was greatly surprised to see a scholarship on it. I went to the Dean and thanked her greatly. I felt the world was now open to me and that nothing was impossible.
I have many fond memories of that year. I also attended during the summer. I went on field hikes with biology professors (for fun because I was a guy who seemed to really love learning. During the finals when we were allowed to bring in a “note card” and people wrote incredibly small, I had space on my small card saying “remember the love of learning”. My prof loved that part, though I did not write it for him), poetry gatherings in other Arkansas cities, debated items in professors offices, invited into offices of faculty I had never met as they gave me their reassurance (I sometimes attacked the president of the college).
I once filled up an entire blackboard in the office of my algebra teacher to prove why my answer was correct. It had been counted wrong on our homework and I wasn’t fighting for the answer or the point, but the method. The method is the important thing for me, if it is wrong, the answers are all suspect (even if they are correct). The problem was algebra and to most people it is easy. I had turned a five step basic algebra problem into a very long problem filling up an entire blackboard. My answer was wrong in the “charge” of the answer, I had mixed up the positive/negative qualities of the answer (I was reading science articles on quantum mechanics at the time and they are all very much beyond my meager intellect… still and possibly forever). The point I was defending was one of charge. When my prof entered her office and saw the problem, she studied it and said that some of my ideas were outside of algebra (I don’t know what algebra is, how can I go outside of algebra?) and more along theoretical math. It was still wrong, but I was showing great thinking and wide range of thought. I had over-reached in my readings and my investigations into other realms had screwed up my understanding of algebra, particularly the notion that a particle could be both positively and negatively charged at the same time. HA!
I must mention here that my educational background was very poor. I never took any difficult clases, though my grades were always meager or poor. I have never done well at rote memorization. The filling of mental filing cabinets with facts and figures has no appeal to me and it was this alone which caused me anxiety in my goal of going through medical school.
But for all the good that I had at UAM, the greater environment was not helpful. The culture of the South, fundamentalism, the lack of a noteworthy intellectual community, all these and more were stifling. Now some 8 years later I am nearly full circle. I again believe after having lived throught some of the crucibles alloted for my existence that I have within me something great and new to offer the world. It is this which propels me forward because I am near overcome with curiosity as to what this discovery will be. As I do not yet know what piece of knowledge will be the key I am open to most anything and have given equal ear to homeless schizophrenic, punk rock youth, elderly philosophy professors, and smug capitalists. These are all subsets of a larger structure and this structure is currently my primary interest.
I am happy to be alive.