Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brain Flexing And Neurological Heft

If last year was my year of being reminded to keep my physical health up, this year is the year of the mental exercise. I've always prided myself on being able to learn. Especially the things that interest me. So, this year, I'm making an effort to dust off some books, nail down some logical puzzles and linguistic acrobatics, and get me some ol' fashioned book learnin'.

To start with, I got a few books of Greek and Latin. I figured I'd really go old fashioned. It's really exciting, and I love it. I adore languages, and I've always had some skill at learning and using them. It's a little different to just read ancient languages; my skill has always been in speaking and communication. Ask anyone who's spoken Japanese or Spanish with me-- it ain't pretty, but I get the job done. With my ancient language study, I'm trying to approach it differently. Much like a logical problem, I'm trying to get the basic structures down, and not communicate basic ideas. An advantage of studying something no one else speaks or uses is the process becomes wholly an intellectual one, and the social and cultural concerns I usually obsess over are non-existent.

One my major problems has always been my laziness. Not the "lay around the couch" kind of laziness; I'm actually pretty energetic. But the intellectual laziness that comes from not being challenged by mediocre problems. School was always easy for me, even college. I wasn't brilliant, but it was easy to be good. When it's easy to be good, a mentally lazy person like me never strives to be great. Now, at a relatively young 33, I feel the desire to push myself to reach for an intellectual greatness. If not a world shattering greatness, at least great beyond what I have used my mind for so far.

I've spent a lot of time being the person I wish to be, spiritually and emotionally. I'm a good father, I hope, and a good husband. (Or, Jaime's a good liar!) I don't want to be a Senator or a millionaire, or anything ridiculous. But I want to use my mind to do some good work, for me and my community. I haven't decided exactly what it means to attempt this, or exactly how: part of my cure for laziness is taking time to think it through, to plan it to the last detail. I wouldn't leave my kids in a situation where I hadn' contemplated every permutation, and I don't ever plan on leaving my brain in such a place. Not anymore.

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