I was talking with Mawi last night about chaos versus the trickster and how it relates to two kinds of Sherlockian reasoning. By the way, as if I weren’t a big enough geek already, I am also a HUGE Sherlock Holmes fan. I have often said that he was my first love (but then I realized Kermit came first).
We discussed the notion that Mawi’s style of reasoning was generally inferential, in which one extrapolates specific details from the overall picture. (It smells smoky in here, therefore someone must have been smoking recently and there must be cigarette butts in the ashtray.)
My style of reasoning is generally deductive, in which one takes specific details and extrapolates the overall picture. (There are cigarette butts in the ashtray, therefore someone must have been smoking in here recently, which also explains the funky smell.)
So, to summarize (in case I lost anyone with my nerdiness, and yes, I am both a nerd and a geek, but that’s a discussion for another time):
Mawi = from the general to the specific = inference
me = from the specific to the general = deduction
In reality, we all use both at different times (or we simply suck at figuring out why anything happens in our lives, I know people like that), but that’s kind of beside the point at the moment. My point is, Mawi and I were discussing the “aha” moment that happens when specific details coalesce into an overall picture, like when you learn a language and suddenly you stop translating in your head and just understand it.
I live for those moments. Those are transcendent moments.
And then I realized why I am an obsessive collector of skills:
because I’m addicted to the “aha” moment, I’m addicted to transcendence.
My friends (lovingly) accuse me (J’accuse!) of being able to do and/or make anything. This is not actually true, of course, and I am both flattered and embarrassed by the suggestion. BUT, all the same, I do like (I mean, really like) knowing things and knowing how to do things. I thought maybe it was because I was trying to prove to myself (and the world?) that I really am good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.
Well, that’s certainly valid (you know, I’m neurotic), but last night I realized I also just can’t get enough of the excitement that comes from connecting the dots, from relating one thing to another (apparently) vastly different thing, and from understanding the deeper connections underneath it all.
The more one knows about different stuff, the more one can find those connections, and the more one has the “aha” experience. (Then one’s brain becomes a giant tangled web of overlapping and contingent realities. It has its drawbacks, like making it incredibly difficult to decide what to order at a restaurant or whether to do homework or take a nap.)
In order to attain that moment of clarity, we must engage our internal improbability drives and allow our subconscious (or perhaps the collective unconscious) to draw the lines that we don’t overtly see (chaos, baby!).
Then, suddenly, it all takes shape, like a star coalescing from a cloud of superheated gas, and the brilliant glow of the realization warms the psyche and mesmerizes the mind.
“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”
William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
(the poem goes on quite a bit after that, but the rest is rather ponderous, IMHO)
In other news, Liverpool Hope University is now offering a Master of Arts degree in The Beatles. I kid you not.
And just for fun, I invite you to peruse Skull-A-Day. Yup, it’s just what it sounds like, but so much more! I want to encourage your dark inner geeky soul because I’m like that.