Thursday, March 18, 2010

How did you get to be well read?

This question occasionally after people have known me for a few months, because I have a strong habit of making references to this and to that. I don't answer it very often.

The explanation is really very simple. I'm not well read at all. I'm just good at looking that way. I haven't read most of the books I'm familiar with. I don't have the depth or thoroughness of a classical education, or even simply of a dedicated reading program. And along with all the books I haven't read at all are the books I've only half-read: Les Miserables, The Sun also Rises, God in Search of Man... My apparent erudition comes largely from a few semi-encyclopedic, scattershot collections I've flipped through over the years: The Jewish 100, An Incomplete Education, a book my mother had with pictures and essay of great works of art in the Western tradition that I would sit with for hours as a child.

But this answer may just raise more questions: Why develop a passing familiarity with so many things? Isn't depth of understanding more fulfilling? And why read such collections so urgently at such a young age.

The answer to these questions is even more simple, and I share it far less.

I was raised by wolves.

But no ordinary wolves. No, these were highly intellectual wolves, for whom a pup unable to converse about Early Romantic Literature was a disgrace and a liability, fit only to be left alone to starve in the cold, harsh world of academia. From my earliest days, appearing well read was a matter of life and death.

It is fortunate, then, that I found so much pleasure in a matter which was essential to my survival.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Is it really possible to complete a goal?

This question began my sister-in-law Nicole's g-mail status for several weeks. It continued, "The anticipation, work, and dedication is so all-encompassing that the completion still feels incomplete."

I know what she means. It's part of what I felt when I finished my Eagle Scout.

I wrote an essay about it, at the time, trying to make sense of how far I'd come and where I was going, trying to understand how something "finished" could still feel so far from done. I went through about four or five giant outlines, and then wrote the final draft in one crazy weekend, after coming home from a Model United Nations conference in Illinois.

I was looking at that essay a few weeks ago, because I was going to link to it on my other blog. And as I read it, I realized that if I wrote it now, it would be a different essay. And I wanted to sit down right then with my outlines and start it all over again. But that's my past. I have other essays to write. Maybe, someday, it will be time for me to come back to it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why make new mistakes when you can just perfect the old ones?

Every week, I have economics homework due Thursday morning. It takes four hours, at least. Every Wednesday, I suddenly remember that it's due the next day. Every Wednesday night, I'm up past two.

This is the seventh week. You'd think I woulda learned.