I once heard Mike Myers say that all his important life experiences — his victories and sadnesses — were like poker chips that he carried with him until he could talk to his father. In telling his dad about the things that happened to him, the happenings were made real and meaningful. The father cashed in the poker chips of Mike Myers’ life.
Writing can be that way for me. Things don’t quite make sense until they’ve been corralled into words and narratives. I wonder about what other ways other people see the world. Do mathematicians correlate formulae and equations and mathematical behaviors with their own lives and experiences? I bet they do.
I see bloggers apologize for blogging about themselves. I think it’s silly, but I do it too. I remember my hero Rudy Rucker once chided himself for flogging his new book on his blog, as if a new Rucker book was not something his readers would be excited about. I really should have emailed him and said, Ya know, Dr. Rucker, I read your blog because I admire you and enjoy your work; in the future, by all means imagine me writing myself a note to go get your new book.
So no apologies for lots of posts, and lots of confusion. The experience of blogging has revealed a nasty truth to me; namely, that I am an anxious and confused person. We all know that this shocking revelation is true, friends. Please calm yourselves and stop the chatter.
Yesterday I was really in a tizzy. I had a deadline, but took the night off. I skipped out on a dear friend’s birthday party. (I love you, Lala. I am so sorry.) I was in no shape to show my face to the world. I had had to hold back tears of confusion in calculus class, not so much at the math, but at my life and what I choose to do with it. I went home to collapse in a heap in front of the PC, and then to go to the grocery store for a dreadful load of sweets to medicate my restless mind and aching spirit.
I spent the evening in the air, like a bird that can find no place to land but sails through an atmosphere of restless, aimless nothingness. I had no appetite, but ate. I cruised the Net looking at nothing for hours on end. Waiting for something to happen that never happened. I collapsed into bed at midnight, having been tired for hours but unable to put myself to bed.
It’s time to change. Slowly, solutions rise through the mists of confusion.
First, I don’t exercise much anymore, and I need to recognize that this is destroying my quality of life and my ability to take on what I take on. Confusion, despair, and homework aside, it’s work out and do yoga or live a half-life. Period.
Second, I don’t eat right anymore. Eating right is a behavior conditioned on having a certain amount of time and money that I don’t always have. So no solutions are coming up other than to just break down and start eating out a lot. My college caf has the makings of healthy meals, as does my local health food store. This solution is costly, but would it be as costly as the price I pay every day (lethargy, headaches, cloudy thinking, depression) for a sugary, fatty, processed diet and skipped meals?
And lastly, I’m still saddened over my lack of contribution to this past election season. As a patriotic American who doesn’t support bigotry, dismantling the Constitution, Intelligent Design, or killing human beings for no good reason, I couldn’t be happier at the change in power. But only in the last days of the election did the importance of the election dawn on me. I’d been in my ivory tower, the math lab, gazing out the window and ineptly deciding whether or not a series was convergent. Peoples’ lives were at stake, and I had nothing to do but study.
So here is my compromise. I’m going to try to start integrating a lot of political information into this blog. God knows it’s everywhere, but I need a political education starting now.
I think I’ll start with this exchange I got via the outstanding local political group blog, Scrutiny Hooligans. In it, retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern grills Donald Rumsfeld. Here’s a short and damning excerpt:
RAY McGOVERN: And so, I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people. Why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary and that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn’t lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. The President spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people, and he went to the American people and made a presentation. I’m not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.
RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were, and we were–
RAY McGOVERN: You said you knew where they were, “near Tikrit, near Baghdad, and northeast, south and west of there.” Those were your words.
DONALD RUMSFELD: My words — my words were — no, no, no, wait a minute!
For too long I’ve kept my beliefs under wraps, played respectful and quiet. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of my complicity in the shitty state of my nation and the tragedies overseas. From now on, think of me not as a political blogger, but as a source of information whereby you, my fellow believers in the Constitution and the idea of America as great-hearted as well as great, can learn how to better shape and defend your own ideas about what America should be.
And, on a bathetic note, I registered for Spring 2007.I’m taking a required Liberal Arts course called Leading Fearless Change, Physics I, UNCA Chorus (I deserve to sing again; it delights my heart), and Calculus III. I would have preferred a break from math, and might still get into the Political Science class I also need as a Liberal Arts requirement (my university is North Carolina’s liberal arts university in the state system, much to the chagrin of some locals like me). But fuck it, I’m a fucking glutton for math punishment. My friend Heather is the same way. What the fuck is it with us? To personify math as Math, Math is like two things to me: an abusive partner that I nonetheless devote myself to, and a wise old professor whose hard tests bring me to my knees but that hammer my mind into weird and exciting new shapes. I’m the first to admit that I do not always have the healthiest relationship with Math. But I can’t stay away from it.
I lay in my bed this morning, late into morning, tossing and sniffling and looking at the blue sky outside my window, at the world I was not ready to show my face to. Do I change my major to something more writerly? What? Would that make me happy? Do I ask people for advice? Who? How? It’s hard to be a proud and proudly self-sufficient introvert sometimes. This whole semester has been about confronting my weaknesses, seemingly all of them at once (not recommended).
I read my book to quiet myself, to give my mind a little pleasure and release. It really was a good and interesting book.
And then I had to laugh at myself. Maybe my answer was right there in what I was reading for pleasure.
Ah, if only there were answers to be easily had in life. A golden compass that when read correctly would tell me, yes, your happiness lies in studying the sciences and trusting your inborn writing abilities. A magic 8-ball that really was magic. A higher power that had an email address, or an 800 number, or that made house calls. A sibyl. An oracle. Anything but the endless uncertainty.