I spend an enormous amount of time pondering the overall arch of my life. In front of me on the desk is a mock-up of a pamphlet that highlights the range of my experience, which goes from nuclear engineering plants (drafting of shut-down systems, studying the materials that surrounds the fuel rods), through universities (teaching physics, professional development for faculty members), to working at a professional theatre company (designing the website and teaching the call-centre staff how to use the new ticketing software). I have programmed computers and taught nursing professors how to structure their courses. I have classified patents and stayed up to all hours of the night grappling with poststructural philosophers. I have studied nuclear physics and the cultural creation of the concept of race. I cannot imagine how anybody looking at my resume in its entirety (which has never been assembled) could make any sense of it at all.
That being said, I have recently encountered Barbara Sher’s book, “Refuse to Choose”. Her assessment of the world is that, rather than being a fundamental flaw in my character, my desire to delve deeply into a new subject, but only for a little while, is a characteristic of being a “scanner”. This is somewhat reassuring, since my own inclination has always been that I was a little irresponsible, flighty, easily distracted… oh! shiny!
For me, the realm of ideas is continually challenging, continually refreshed, and continually confusing. I have recently been reading “real” philosophy (i.e. philosophers that make it onto the curriculum). In a radical act for me, I’m doing so without signing up for a course! At present, Wittgenstein is sitting on my desk. There’s a picture of him looking very thoughtful and intense on the cover, so I have a strange and illusory feeling of communion with the person himself, rather than simply the ideas he presents… if we can, in fact, separate one from the other. He, himself, has given me permission to think, although I do not believe that was his intent. He says on the first page of this book, “… what I have written here makes no claim to novelty in points of detail; and therefore I give no sources, because it is indifferent to me whether what I have thought has already been thought before me by another” (emphasis mine). Now there is an intriguing thought. I have had a tendency to dismiss my thoughts as a result of conversations that go something like this:
Me: I was just thinking about this issue about the universe, and based on XYZ, I believe the following to be true!
Husband: That’s interesting. It’s very similar to what $well-known scientist/philosopher Q$ had to say about that issue.
Me (deflated): Oh. I thought I’d *finally* come up with something interesting to add to the Conversation. (meaning, I guess, novel)
It is interesting… I must believe something I don’t know. Rationally, that seems like an absurd standard to apply to myself, yet I repeatedly find that my ability to sit down and write is hindered by encountering this objection in my own mind. That’s why I don’t post more often. I find it extremely difficult to branch out into expressing my own thinking, despite the fact that thinking itself has been my primary activity across the years.
A much less well-known philosopher, Anthony Weston, recently gave me a Philosophical Imagination License. I have it posted on my wall above my desk. So, I guess this post might be to say, “Thank you, Anthony. I’ll give it a try.”