I think I will see myself as someone with mediocre intelligence attempting to grasp ideas invented and discovered by eggheads and madmen.
I am determined to spend the rest of my days exploring the math. I do not feel any pressure to master anything, and yet I secretly do want to master some things.
I don’t want to compare mathematics to playing the drums, but I can’t resist using this as an example to help me clarify (to myself, mostly) what is driving me to study math so obsessively again.
When I was around 27, after asking my live-in girlfriend to leave, I purchased a drum set. It was during the period of my life I lived in an historic house next to the maintenance shop where I was a state employee/slave … a privileged slave, actually. It was the same time in my life when I started attending community college, starting with Calculus. I have never been a musician, but I loved to keep a beat on a drum kit, and I loved to beat on the drums like a madman when alone with Ozzy Osbourne’s Mr. Crowley cranked to the hilt.
Yes, I also loved beer and herb.
Well, I sense a real similarity in my relationship with drumming and my relationship with mathematics. I love them both. I am a master at neither. If I approached a drum kit, I would want to be alone … it would be a mystical encounter.
Now, enter mathematics. There is a very similar dynamic here. When I work with mathematics, I like to be alone, just as I would like to be alone if I were ever to sit at a drum kit. Math, like the drum, is one of the things in this life that has touched me ever since I was a child. I think this is why, for now at least, I am focusing on undergraduate level “higher mathematics” and not concerned too much with the pure branches of mathematics, the things Bertrand Russell was grappling with. I am not too concerned about the foundations of mathematics; nor am I concerned about being able to “read music” or “keep time” the way a “professional musician” would require a drummer to keep time.
This is the spirit of how I am using the word “mediocre”. I do not want to use it in a self-deprecating manner.
I once heard that some cultures consider playing music as belonging to humanity,where it is not reserved for a class of professional musicians. I would like to create this kind of culture for myself as far as mathematics is concerned. I mean, as a religion of one, like insanity itself, I want my own private relationship with mathematics (as with drumming) that transcends any kind of metric. No competition, no rating, no grading, no bullshiit.
I want to pay respect to Riemann when I use his methods …
If I can reach the point where going through some exercises in a mathematics textbook, at a level I am quite comfortable with, is like playing the drums alone with a 12-pack of Molson Ice and a bag of herb … then I will have found my mojo.