I think a little bit about the ‘type’ of knowing things which I enjoy. I know that I’ve had a sort of traditional enjoyment and ability around math (obviously as an erstwhile relatively successful physicist for a while), but I love thinking and I love ideas that span the humanities too.
Not infrequently I tell the story that as a physics student (undergraduate) my favorite class in college was a first year literature course. This was the early 1980’s. But the way it was taught was so broad but could capture a way of thinking about literature that I had never appreciated very well. I was a pretty avid reader but this was something different. The class touched on Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Bible. The professor took a literature-centered and philosophical perspective on the latter which used the book of Job as the means to express a universal problem: why do bad things happen to good people and how the Old Testament is actually an ‘Eastern’ meditation on the topic. Just a great set of discussions and thinking.
There are other examples of this in my life as I tell it to myself, but two aspects of it make me think about it. First, the excitement about the breadth of thought that comes from a ‘Liberal Arts’ education. That’s coupled tightly in my thinking these days with one of my children who has such an education. I struggle to find the right words to tell her how good that education is because it guarantees you a journey without telling you the map. At the same time, she is a person who takes for granted the importance and strength she brings to that path. Given a success, she’ll want to focus and perseverate on the woe brought on by where she hasn’t been immediately successful.
I wonder if that isn’t a foggy mirror of myself, my intention to not be avid or successful in a solely narrow sense but to expand myself as interested in a broader sense. Is that a need, maybe egotistical, to express that I’m good at everything? That’s one way to see it.