I think I may be coming to realize just why I am so determined to investigate those aspects of “accelerated” high school mathematics that got me so depressed as a teenager now that I am older and kind of “out to pasture”.
Now I am able to handle the depression that is bound to ensue. In fact, I find myself embracing the depression which engulfs me. It must be caused by the enormity of the subject in comparison to what can be held between the ears at any given moment. As a teenager, it overwhelmed me, but now I think I am learning to rest in confusion, or I have simply become more comfortable with the limitations of OUR mental capacity. I do not take it personally anymore.
I want to understand, and I do understand – just a very small fraction of what I imagined what “understanding something” felt like.
I have come to expect feeling depressed, and so it no longer overwhelms me.
There is nothing mystical about it. No supernatural visions.
I feel as though I am the protagonist in an epic existential dystopian novel where I am such an honest man that I have tracked down some particularly challenging high school textbooks from the 1980’s (which still were based on the “New Mathematics” of the 1960’s), where, because I am so intellectually honest I exert the mental effort required to give my all to them.
Meanwhile, the not so honest students, those who did not suffer any nervous breakdowns since it did not bother them if they really grokked anything or not as long as they got the grades, got into and out of college, and into some decent paying job married with children … season tickets to some arena, vacations to Europe and the Gulf of Mexico, they never looked back. They never had any desire to revisit the material since they have to keep learning how to to navigate the ever-changing software in their office … learning how to incorporate the latest app on their smartphone to manage their finances, secure their castle, and make reservations at their favorite restaurant (not to mention ordering their wine and having it delivered to their doors).
Do you see why I get this feeling I am the protagonist in an existential dystopian science-fiction novel about the present? To be 50 years old and be struck with this obsession to really, really, most genuinely give those high school textbooks (and others) their due? It’s as though I expect to experience some kind of mental shift. I have been through the university and I wondered about the gaps in the educational system, how each course can only cover so much as we race toward our inevidable suicides.
Are we expected not to understand? And if so, are we expected to then devote ourselves to the pursuit of gathering “credentials” and “status symbols”? If someone is driving a Mercedes-Benz or a Volvo or any kind of new car at all, they certainly don’t need to be concerned about how to write a two column proof. They have to practice their techniques for maximizing their number of orgasms, after all.
I do not believe the great lies.
What I am up to these days is the last thing they would expect from me at this juncture.
They expect me to wallow in self-pity, contemplate suicide, walk around sexually frustrated and totally miserable, thinking myself such a loser, such a deadbeat, such a drain on the War Machine economy, contributing nothing to society.
They certainly never expected me to go looking through these old math textbooks and hunting down the solution manuals as though I have stumbled upon Secret Knowledge that we were never meant to be exposed to, or if so, we were meant to feel intimidated and to never want to look into these matters ever again.
What’s going on?
I am looking where they never expected me to look. I don’t need any Zen Master or religious guru to guide me out of this illusory Matrix. I just need to train my mind to work in a calm, even if somewhat depressed, manner. Happiness and enthusiasm are unrealistic expectations since, after all, we are living organisms with all that this entails.
(to be continued)