The weatherman claims, if you can believe it, that tomorrow night will be 55 degrees colder than tonight. So in an effort to spend as little time outdoors tomorrow as possible, I went to the store and to the gym, bracketed by my usual half hour walk to campus. So I was gone for awhile. While I was at the gym, I was wondering if it was foolish to put up that crowdfunding post; I was afraid that in a week I wouldn’t have near enough and I’d feel stupid. Then I came home and the book was paid for. It’s really amazing, and it makes me feel like a million bucks. Thank you, you guys.
I have to, at some point, write a post about being a humanist whose current work is, perhaps, not really a part of the humanities. Although, truth be told, I’ve been trying and failing to write that post for a long time. It’s complicated and it involves aspects of my life that are existential in the fullest sense, so I have not yet been up to the task. I’ll write it some day. The simple version: the director of my program, the brilliant and immensely supportive Pat Sullivan, frequently says that I “chase rabbits in my mind.” (Sometimes when I’m supposed to be paying attention in class.) And that’s how I’ve ended up staring at spreadsheets, reading about curve fitting, and trying to learn R, when I was writing papers about Midnight’s Children 10 years ago. I know that it is inevitable that this change will be perceived as a value judgment of one over the other, but it isn’t, at all. The traditional humanities education I have received and am still receiving is ingrained in my thinking in I way I could never change and wouldn’t want to. I just chased a rabbit down a hole and ended up here.
It’s a different kind of learning for me. I always thought of myself as bad at math. I wish I could tell you there was some awful teacher in the past who made me feel that way but the truth was that it was a very arrogant kind of deficiency. “I’m a book guy!” I thought. I failed math and science several times in high school, although to be fair there was a lot going on. Years later, in undergrad, a patient and kind professor walked me through trigonometry. After, I got a job tutoring the SATs, and I allowed myself to say, hey, I’m pretty good at math. Then statistics has come through a process of more patient teaching, learning, thinking I’ve got it, then realizing I don’t, and getting a little bit better and a little bit better…. Every time I say, boy, I thought I really got this before, but now I really get it. And eventually I get to a point where a colleague asks about a concept, and I can tell them, “here’s how it works,” and that’s a kind of real joy.
Anyway: I’m humbled by this gift. It’s my privilege.