Friday, June 10, 2011

Identity check

Because my style of thinking follows on from the type of person that I am, it may be useful if I divulge a little about my personality. That may help you to decide how much credence to give me. Words don’t exist in a vacuum; they are coloured by the character of their user. Consequently, there’s a reason for me to prove myself worthy. Whether I want to or not, I’m going to have to crawl out on that limb.

Though no man is an island, I keep myself a strictly-patrolled peninsula. By that, I mean that I’m semi-permeable to other input. Through reading I’ll happily incorporate ideas from external sources. But I do so very judiciously—and I’d recommend that you apply the same strategy. Tread cautiously. Do allow ideas from foreign sources to pollinate you, but don’t let yourself be genetically modified in the head. It’s a finely-tuned balancing act.

In No Ordinary Genius, David Goodstein tells of getting together with Richard Feynman one evening to read with excitement the manuscript of Jim Watson’s (and Crick’s) The Double Helix, a year before that milestone of a book was published.

“Watson must have been either very lucky or very smart,” remarked Goodstein to Fenman, “because he never knew what anybody else was doing, and yet he still made the crucial discovery.”

Replied Fenman, “That’s what I learned from reading it. I used to know it, and then I forgot it—I have to disregard everybody else, and then I can do my own work.” And so, given that Will? I Am! originated almost exclusively from me, the time might be right to reveal a little about myself (the bare minimum, I promise us both).

I always feel awkward when I’m asked who I am. The conventional response is to name an occupation, as if the activity that brings dollars through the door defines one as a person. Well, that isn't how I see myself. My day job is incidental to who, or what, I am. I place more emphasis on making a life than on making a living.

And yet I wouldn't feel comfortable coming out with the truth either—declaring for example that I’m a seeker. I hate it when people respond, “Whaaat!?” so I tend to 'um' and 'er'. To entrust a stranger or even an acquaintance with a deeper response, and for me to divulge how I relate to the universe, and what I deem to be important in my life, isn't for casual conversation.

It should suffice that English is my mother tongue, and that I can make myself understood. I write competently (if you can ignore my irrepressible wit). I don’t require that you trust me. I don’t care whether you relate to me or not. Both are irrelevant to me. I’ve grown up largely outside the influence of any major religion, so have no vested interest in any dogma or belief system. More than that, you don’t really need to bother yourself with.

Why wonder about whether I’m male or female (or combination thereof)? Surely my physical appearance—height, weight, skin colour and shoe-size—is of no consequence. I’m above the age of consent—of an age, in fact, to have grandchildren. It shouldn’t make a jot of difference whether I’m confined to a wheelchair, or run marathons. I have most of the ‘seven smarts’ and do well in intelligence tests, though have never felt that to be an advantage—the reverse, if anything. You ought not to care a hoot whether I have a steady job or am unemployed. Why would you give a fig about whether I write from a prison cell or via the free Internet access suite at the local library? What does it matter where I hang my hat? 


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