The final page of this month’s (April 2010) Discover magazine lists ’20 Things You Didn’t Know About Viruses’, and the very last item notes, "Scientists suspect that a large DNA-based virus took up residence inside a bacterial cell more than a billion years ago to create the first cell nucleus. If so, then we are all descended from viruses."
Well, I’m one virus that’s getting on towards the end of its shot at being human, but is not content to go quietly sometime in the next five minutes to twenty or so years. Okay, that’s not strictly true, since I’ll actually be seeking quiet, but only so my brain can be noisy.
A few decades back I went off to Brown University, of Ivy League fame, to do college. Somehow I had garnered the impression that I would learn great things from learned professors and in late night discussions with my peers, not too differently from the way things worked in the great universities of Europe back when.
I was, to quote that other Rick, a certain Mr. Blaine from Casablanca, misinformed. World reality failed to match inner reality. In any event, my adventure through college took some seven years and two universities before getting a degree from Brown. It’s in a drawer somewhere.
Contrary to what else I thought would happen following that happy conclusion, a career in anything did not follow. Some forty jobs followed, as disparate as corporate legal administrator and locksmith, fry cook and social researcher. There has been, consequently, no pension, no golden watch, no vacation in Hawaii.
Having reached the technical age of retirement and having nothing to retire from and subsisting on a small disability check, I decided it was time to go back to college. Not the college of my misinformed youth, but the college of my misinformed mind, the college I wanted to go to, with modifications.
I began to study philosophy and logic, grammar and math, Greek and Latin, in part to see what I may have missed, and in part to keep my mind from decaying with age.
The process has been, at best, hit or miss. It’s not so much that I am not the most dedicated, disciplined mind, though that has somewhat to do with it. A good part of the problem has been the simple lack of company on the journey. There is no classroom, there is no teacher. My classroom is simply me sitting at the desk, and my teacher is whatever book I am working from and whatever information I can find on the internet. It is frankly a lonely sort of way to travel through the mindfields of knowledge.
Philogate, or Learnings, depending on which line of text your eye falls on first, is an attempt to somewhat remedy the loneliness of this senior learner. At the simplest level, I hope to maintain motivation by talking here about what I’m studying, with the idea that if I think someone is listening or paying attention, I’m more likely to keep going. A bonus will be readers chiming in with helpful information, or commentary, or even taking up some of the learning with me.
That said, here’s what’s on the menu:
For Greek, I’ve started working with A Reading Course in Homeric Greek by Schoder and Horrigan. I previously started working through Athenaze by Balme and will eventually go back there.
Of course even mentioning that raises up the question of why study a dead and difficult old language like Ancient Greek. Partly because it is dead and difficult, but more because it connects me to those times. I think it’s important to know about ancient peoples in the Western tradition of civilization. They went through a lot of the same stuff we go through today. It’s humbling and exciting to connect to a mind long gone, but still alive in the words left behind. I may not be reading the originals to any great extent, but I want to have some knowledge of the language the people used. And the challenge fits the idea of keeping my mind alive and reasonably sharp.
In philosophy I’m working slowly through a Teaching Company course on existentialism and for the moment have stalled at Camus because I want to read more of his work before moving on in the course. I am finding, though, reading to be more laborious than when I was young, and slower, in part due to the material I’m choosing to read, and in part due to just not being young and quick.
For anyone who’s trying to learn anything, I strongly recommend a copy of Harry Lorayne’s The Memory Book. Just do it. You’ll understand.
I’ve babbled on long enough. You get the idea. I’d be happy to hear your comments…well, read them anyway.