Megan mentioned the other day that, in addition to the topics I had outlined to write about, I might also want to consider any neuroses that I have. Well, after what happened with the last one, I started wondering about that; but I really couldn't think of anything outstanding. I've got some small foibles like an aversion to sudden, loud noises and the presence of guns; a hangup about physical privacy; and, of course, my ongoing struggle with anger; but those are all understandable and controllable psychological side-effects of my injury. If I have any huge mental problems that I don't know about; it behooves you, my friends, to call the happy police to come get me before I pop. I think I'm pretty well adjusted, but then so am I. ;Þ
So I'll take this time to go over some of my interests instead. In my life I've already had a million of them that have come and gone and I hope the trend continues, but there are a few that I've stuck with and probably will always follow. So, hold on to your hats (and wallets and crotches); we're jumping over the rainbow into the wacked-out world of Roger's-
First and foremost, I love Science. In general, I love it because it's not just the products and technology which make our lives here in the US so comfortable (if you don't think we're living in luxury, just think about what people's lives were like in Europe during the Middle Ages or in Ancient Egypt); but also the people who dedicate their lives to forever improving our civilization and the Method they use to do it, which is eminently logical in its design and self-correcting. Those of you who have problems with it may really just have problems with the people who misuse the ideas and products that come out of it. In my view, things and inventive ideas are neither good nor bad in themselves. It is the way they are used by us which makes them helpful or destructive.
Specifically, I love mathematics because it is the foundation of most, if not all, of the other sciences; because I have studied it formally and informally all of my life and am very good at it; and because I think it is beautiful in its overwhelming complexity, which is based, nevertheless, on very simple rules.
I love physics, from the esoteric theories to the well-grounded mechanics, because it explains in great detail how the natural world works; much better, I believe, than any other system of thought in history. It is theoretical physics which has given us everything we plug into our walls, the electricity we use to run it, and just about every other mechanical convenience to which we are addicted. Neither religion, nor politics, nor any other social organization has done so much. They may take care of the welfare of the human race, but the products of science are the tools they use.
I love astronomy and cosmology because they show us the unimaginable beauty of the universe and how it came about and because these are the disciplines in which the Big Questions are still being asked. Art and Religion are tremendous outlets for human creativity and compassion; but, where artists create beauty from inside themselves, astronomy shows that there is a great deal of it already out there in the heavens and, though spiritual leaders can give people comfort and great purpose, their teachings about world history are based mostly upon unchangeable dogma of the past that is becoming more and more out of step with observed reality, whereas cosmology is based upon observations in the present that are continuously tested and updated.
Finally, I love anthropology and archaeology because they show us who we are as a race and how we came to be this way. Anthropology shows the amazing diversity of cultures around the world and seeks to preserve them so that we never lose the acquired knowledge of our ancestors and archaeology tells us of our accomplishments and mistakes using empirical evidence; together they are essential for the formulation of a true history, not just one imagined by seers or pulled together by scholars from fragments of literature or lore, that can be used to fire our imaginations so that we can perform even greater accomplishments in the future and, hopefully, avoid making even greater mistakes than those we have already.
There are many other branches of Science, but these are the ones that I study and of which I keep track. Many people have said to me how sorry they are that I am missing the joys inherent in spiritual beliefs; but I feel no such emptiness, for the beauty is out there and within me and I see it every day. It is a beauty I can touch and know without having to take anyone's word; because Science itself is a discipline, not a faith, and, although scientists will always make mistakes, they are also driven to correct them.
In addition to Science I love human knowledge and creativity, especially in the form of the written word. In my earliest childhood my parents read to me and my brother, Michael, from the books that they had had as children and I believe it is from them that I learned how to read. When my oldest brother, Donny, joined the Navy in 1974, he left behind a barrel that was as tall as I and half full of pulp science fiction and fantasy novels including the LotR; Azimov's Foundation series; and most of the then extant works of Heinlein, Herbert, Bradbury, Delaney, and many other Golden Age authors.
I devoured them all within ten years, mindless of their reading levels, as I always had a dictionary and encyclopedia on hand to help. I walked back and forth to elementary and junior high school and between classes reading books, so that I was never bored, even while alone; the only times I put them down were when I went out to the parks or to ride my bikes. My mother and I spent whole Saturday afternoons in the city libraries browsing and I checked out books from every subject, forever searching for something different. My reading began to slack off in high school (as did the rest of me) but came back in force afterwards; so that books remain my companions even today, while I delve into this new kind of literature. I love long books and strange books; I love books that have been banned. I love books from every part of the spectrum from 1960's speculative fiction to historical treatises to Dover Edition math texts. When I came out from seeing the last movie in the LotR trilogy on Sunday and my mom asked how I liked it; all that I could think was, God, I hope they make the Silmarillion! They probably won't do that, but they're set to make a five-part adaptation of the seven volume Chronicles of Narnia; and I will be there to watch them with the fond memory of a long gone, age-yellowed set to guide me further up and further in.
I also love music and every other kind of media, but I came to them rather late. My dad was always the Fearless Leader in our house and, since we had only one TV and stereo, we watched what he wanted to watch and listened to what he wanted to listen to, without exception; so most of my early background is mostly in 1960's sitcom reruns, the Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, Masterpiece Theater, and classical and big band music. I got sick of the slapstick antics of Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason faster than you can say, "Bang, zoom," but the rest I grew to enjoy. I remember the times I spent at my sisters' apartments listening to 1970's pop on their radios, thinking that it was very radical and dreaming of one day cranking it in our own living room; by the time MTV came about, however, I had enough experience through my various friends to know that music was a far larger world than I had imagined and since have striven to continually open my ears to all the myriad 'genre's out there. These days, I tend to enjoy live music more than recorded and prefer local garage bands over top sellers, but I mostly use it as mood enhancement rather than listening to it for its own sake. There are, of course, notable exceptions; and, although I've never been obsessed over any particular groups, I do own the full LZ boxed set, the earliest seven Pink Floyd CDs and more than my fair share of pre-`84 Genesis and Yes. I'm also an `80s pop junkie; not because it still pervades our society like bad breath, but because those were my formative years when every stolen moment with my friends was golden and usually backed up with vocals by one-hit wonders. There are mammoth caves worth of space inside my mind filled with the media of the last thirty-odd years, space that's mostly wasted, but I consider myself well-rounded because of it (thanks more to the eclectic nature of my relationships than to my own tastes) and continue to get rounder. MP3.com is offline? Try IUMA! Or, even better, go down to Scooners and watch Alligator Dave embarass the hell out of the Frogs.
Last, but not leashed (heh), I love to study people. My gawd, people fascinate the hell out of me! Maybe it's because they're the one thing I can never quite pin down or maybe it's just human nature to be curious; but I get positively giddy when I'm in a crowded bar, club, or mall and there are two-too-many conversations of which to keep track. In direct contrast to why I like math, I love watching people; because, no matter how well I know body language or the interconnections of a social circle, they always surprise me. And being perhaps, a 90% het guy, I love women like nobody's business. I have two sisters who are twelve and fourteen years older than me, I've known women from all walks of life and all corners of the globe, and even spent several years shooting the shit with the baudy fems of the Tarrant County Junior College nursing campus; but you grrrlz out there never cease to blow my mind, and I love it. Loveitloveitloveitloveitloveit!
As for the rest of my interests, like this 366mhz lump on the desk, world events and history, close relationships, and chemical enhancements; I'd have to say they can be fascinating as well but usually contain as much bad qualities as good, give me as much grief as good times, and only interest me in waves. Right now, I'm a geek who watches too much 24hr news alone and goes out on the back porch every once in a while to have a cigee; but in a month I could resort to being an apolitical hippy, smoking fatties and making out with some borderline raver chick in the living room of her roommate's brother. But then I'm a cancer, so I reserve the right to change by the phases of the Moon. Oh, wait, I'm not supposed to believe in things like that. I guess that's what makes me human.