The Mediocre Faust (not a PhD)

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.



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