bram: (galafractaxyl)
[personal profile] bram
A rare public entry. At least my mysterious reader Monika in Poland might be pleased! But not really much to say about astronomy here. More contemplating life as it is passing.

A good couple of days. Life sets limits on us though and it's a tough burden to say these mere moments justify that weight.

Last night I went dancing at my old club. As usual I was extremely energetic. I love the exercise, and it keeps me young, but I am alert to detecting the slight slowdowns of aging--and also to those moments when I feel I break free of them. I started this journal at age 32 and am now 45. Sometimes I take aging as a challenge, as that worthy adversary that can truly motivate me.

Earlier I went to my gym here (I'm in Boston, on vacation from teaching near Atlanta, doing research on my own.) Not having a gym lock and living far from the gym, I ended up spending the day without my computer, a vacation from working on my projects.

I fall into a state of "kitch of languidness", a kind of stereotypical enjoyment of the possibility of relaxing, of putting aside struggle and attention. Spent some time in Davis Square just watching people go by and the play of light through the leaves of the trees. Extraverts seem to have no comprehension of how needed peace and quiet and uninvolvement are for introverts such as myself.

Also, 4th of July just passed, thinking about this country, both the unprecedented historical achievements and potentials, and also the disappointments, seeded in human nature, that not even such a well thought out system can avoid. Often during election years we hear about how Americans are always supposed to be Do-ers, the entrepreneur and risk-taking are celebrated, we are supposed to be a country that works hard and plays hard, not one that sits apart in contemplation--better to act even if it causes zillions of problems, than to stay still for a moment... I feel alienated when getting the message that this is the single temperament my country is supposed to value. And yet also there are the platitudes (one wonders how deep the committment) on how important teachers are (but not concerns bubbling up from below as much as the imposition of testing standards and overhyped techno-solutions), how important STEM (science technology, engineering, medicine) fields are (but mainly to have such a labor oversupply that costs are kept down...)

As I get the salting of white hairs in my beard I figure it's supposed to give me a sort of gravitas and dignity, but I haven't really figured out what one is supposed to do with gravitas and dignity. With youthful energy you go out and dance, you get upset at politics, you write music or poetry or a blog for your cat. Maybe you are just supposed to strike a pose, like, here I am a professor all dignified...? Maybe I'm supposed to have kids and be a role model or at some point buy a house with a lawn and get all cranky about the Kids On My Lawn.

Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat's Cradle wrote metaphorically about these "teams" that fate seems to put us in, working towards goals we only start to realize--he calls them granfaloons, karass, wampeter... I am not sure that I have completely found such a team. There are external challenges galore in this world, yet the thoughts churning inside me are still looking for a place to go. Teaching science is supposed to open up better lives for my students, but for myself I imagine a life like Grigory Perelman pushing away the world...

Though perhaps that's the kitch of languidness, and I do not always live up to that life... Had a brunch in a nice Brazilian restaurant today--not working over the summer, my finances deplete.

Reminded also of one of those amazing throwaway paragraphs in Olaf Stapledon's amazing science fiction novel of the 1930s, Star Maker... He imagines a planet with plant-men, creatures like trees that can vegetate when connected to their roots, but that can move about as animals and temporarily disconnect. Their society decides the roots are no longer needed, disconnects permanently, and proceed to live only as animals and not plants. They never recover from the damage that one-sidedness inflicts on them.

http://synthaissance.blogspot.com/2010/12/plant-men-and-others-from-star-maker-by.html
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