Alfie? Alfie? What the hell?

I just finished reading ‘Plato and A Platypus Walk Into A Bar…’ by Cathcart and Klein for the fourth time. It’s not Harry Potter or The Lord of The Rings, but it’s pretty good for an intro to the odd and winding paths of philosophy. And it’s fun to read. Plenty of jokes to illustrate ideas.

Reading this book is all part of my plan to do the stuff I thought I’d be doing when I tottered off to college back in the day. You know, study stuff. How long ago was that, you ask? Well, back then a college education wasn’t fraught with career decisions, a liberal arts degree in the humanities opened the door to a wide variety of work and careers, and employers weren’t looking necessarily for fully trained people but for people who could think and learn. Yeah, that long ago.

I finally got a degree after seven years of educationis interruptus. An Ivy League degree at that. But I’d be hard pressed to say I learned anything that mattered. Certainly nothing that prepared me for my career of some fifty jobs, from waiter to corporate legal admin.

The most interesting work? Reporter for a daily newspaper, and temporary office worker. Reporting, every day was different and new stuff needed to be explored. Working temp provided a change of job and scenery every week or two usually. For better or for worse, I bore easily. And persistence numbers not among my great virtues. Persistence requires a narrowing of focus, but look around. There are tons and tons of interesting things in the world, things, places, objects, creations, ideas, all swirling about an open mind like the vast swirls of dust and gas that forms stars and galaxies. My default choice is to be a galaxy.

So, I end up reading about Plato and an odd creature from Australia doing philosophy. But I’m also studying social psychology, which I didn’t know existed until a few months ago. And logic and argumentation and philosophy, with side trips into math and learning Morse code for radio communication and electronics and reading history and dabbling in all sorts of stuff, from Greek and Latin to modern cosmology. And I play backgammon and am interested in Go.

But these days few people really care for these things. I suspect that all through history only a tiny percentage of humanity ever really cared about them. It’s like the old saw about the library at Alexandria, the one that goes ‘Raise your hand if you still get angry about the library at Alexandria.’ I suspect most people wouldn’t know what the hell you’re talking about when you say that. Me, I still get mad that all that written knowledge was destroyed. I wonder sometimes if the world would have been different if the Alexandrian books had survived instead of the babblings of religious zealots living in the desert near the Dead Sea.

Yeah, so I’m more than a little weird. So what? You expect normality from a guy who spends ninety-nine percent of his time alone? Except for the cats. As long as I feed them I can be as weird as I want and they won’t say a word. On the other hand, when I think I’m getting a bit too far out there, I tell myself that for all the contact and noise and babble people toss back and forth among themselves, everybody is alone. The noise is just about avoiding that fact. Or maybe that’s just sour grapes because I don’t have a girlfriend and a circle of friends. Doesn’t really matter. I may not be able to cuddle with a book, but I can open any of my thousands of books and in a few moments go just about anywhere in time and in the universe in the company of interesting people. (Though sometimes, I admit, I’d rather have the real girl.)

I dunno. I’m babbling. It’s been a long ride. I’m probably going to die alone, but I’d like to think that when I go I’ll have a book in my lap open to a page discussing something really hard to understand. Then when the EMTs find me one of them will say, “Hey, look at this. This guy must have been pretty smart, huh?” It’d be nice if I were smiling.



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