10/20/2007 at 12:00
I got an envelope from my friend Maria on Friday. Thick. Marked "do not bend" in 5 places. Intriguing.
I sat down in my chair and opened it.
A third of a lifetime's worth of love spilled across my lap.
She had sent me- oh, what had she done? She lay across my legs in bits and pieces, images and lambent colors. In letters and words, in pictures and colors, in snippets of sheet music, in pieces of story and song and poem, she had sent me herself.
And she had sent me myself too- images of how she saw me, words of affirmation from her to me, flashing beauty culled from the apple of her eye, poetry and prose that pulled responses I had forgotten I owned from deep within my psyche.
On printer paper, on greeting cards, on thin exquisite Florentine stationery, on glossy cardboard, in laser print, in black ink she sent me
the gibbous moon. And
happiness in watercolored Spanish. And
fragile hand-thrown ceramic shells. And
postage stamps from Tunisia. And
stooping death in a laborer's hat. And
a flawless silver-red heart. And
ecstatic song from sense-steeped poets. And
childishly absurd visual jokes. And
immaculate heartsblood-crimson blooms. And
petal-perfect flowering golden rings.
And the silver sun and golden stars.
I have received many gifts in my life; have been, often and again, one of the luckiest people I know.
Never have I received so much love- so much everything- in so small a compass.
Never, in fact, have I been given a gift so magnificent.
It is, as I said, more than a third of our lifetimes' worth of thought, of caring, of ideas and visions and work and secrets and dreams. I don't know how long she has been gathering these things- for me and for her. But this is no afternoon's work, no pile of a day's thought. This is months, perhaps years, of her thinking of me, setting aside things to send me, to show me, to write to me.
This is her seeing all that is weak in me and all that is best, and giving me everything she found within herself and the beauty around her to remind me of the latter and shore up the former.
She has given me- totality. The ideal of every object I could have desired. Of things I didn't know I needed. Of things I didn't until now know enough to crave and require.
Ah, Muina Colinda. I see, and will keep striving to experience, to understand, to know, to accept, to become.
I love you, Maria. I love you too.
Labels: diary, friendship
10/19/2007 at 01:33
I am lucky that the popular sport in the Soviet Union was chess and not baseball.
Garry Kasparov is running for President.
For those of you who don’t know who he is, Kasparov is a Grandmaster and was World Chess Champion (the youngest ever) for 8 years running. He’s won every major chess tournament in the world, and on every one of the three scales used to rate chess players he is the highest-rated chess player of all time.
He is, in a other words, a smart guy.
While there have been (you’ll pardon the phrase) idiot savants who are capable of playing chess at very high levels, none of them has reached the level that Kasparov- or indeed any World Champion- has. Chess is a game that requires at its highest levels not only innate talent but a fierce, profound, and disciplined intelligence.
Kasparov is, not to put too fine a point on it, a genius. Indisputably. Indelibly. And not just a genius in his own time. The moving finger of time has writ his name in the books of every country in which chess is played- which is to say, in every country in the world- among the greatest chess players in human history.
He retired from chess in 2005 and has since 2003 built a literary reputation as a chess historian; and now he wants to go into politics. More precisely, he has already gone into politics, and now wants to participate in international politics as Russia’s chief officer.
I find this incalculably fascinating.
I find it fascinating because, as an observer on the sidelines of subjects from political science to history to physics to literature to mathematics, I’ve seen a general consensus among intellectuals that politics is the domain not of intellect but of ‘cunning’ and ‘common sense’. They are not mutually exclusive, of course; one may have all to varying degrees. But one of the few constants of almost every political discussion I’ve ever had is the idea that being intellectually brilliant will get you nowhere in politics- and may actually be a handicap.
I’m not sure what causes this sort of thinking. Certainly some of it is stereotype- the wily, cunning, powerful politician as opposed to the intelligent yet politically ineffectual intellectual. I’m nearly certain that some of it is hypothesizing on an observed phenomenon- ‘there are no pure intellectuals in politics, so there must be a reason why’. I’m positive that some of it is mutual dislike and distrust between the intellectual and political spheres and a desire to dismiss the importance of the other.
Assuredly there have been politicians who were incredibly intelligent (Bill Clinton’s Rhodes Scholarship comes to mind). But I cannot summon a single name of a person, living or dead, of Kasparov’s intellectual stature who participated in politics at a high level.
Well, no. I can summon one name: Benjamin Franklin.
One of the most brilliant men of all time, certainly the intellectual giant among the Founding Fathers, and quite possibly the greatest polymath this country has ever produced. (And also, not so incidentally, a personal hero.)
The dimensions of my fascination are becoming more obvious now, aren’t they?
The fact is that Kasparov’s run is unique- even Franklin never held the top office of his country, nor did he try. Other intellectuals have held ruling positions, it’s true, but they have either been born to them (like Cosimo de’Medici) or have gained reknown and only then had intellectual talents acknowledged as having been responsible (like Napoleon and Alexander). Kasparov, if he wins office, offers a chance that has never to my knowledge come down the pike in recent (meaning in the last 2,000 years) human history: the chance to see what a man who has proven himself over and over to be a genius- in a field entirely unrelated to politics- will do with the problem of running a country.
Here’s the rub: The idea that human political and social interaction is too complex to be analyzed and navigated systematically, rather than on an idiopathic ad hoc basis, is one of the most persistent and pernicious dismissals of human brainpower that I have ever encountered.
And it is- pay close attention here, folks- untested.
I am, as many of you know, an empiricist: do not state something as a fact to me unless you have observed data to back it up.
How can we dismiss overwhelming intellectual power as an effective means to political rule if it’s literally never been tried?
We can’t. This is our chance to collect data on this phenomenon. And if Kasparov wins, those who consistently discount the role of disciplined brilliance in running human affairs may have a hard time continuing to do so.
That is, in any case, my ideal- but we’ll see. At least, I hope we will.
Labels: genius, international politics, politics
10/17/2007 at 08:42
Thoughts of the easily amused (even more so after pulling call last night):
Playing around with a WMP display by hitting the little arrow button and not paying any attention to anything but the "oooooooooo...coooooloooors" on the screen, I hit one and stopped.
Looked at it. Looked again.
And thought, That one looks like the radio sweep pattern of a neutron star.
And then looked up at the name: Event Horizon.
And am now idiotically, blissfully happy that somebody else out there shares my specific brand of geekery.
Yay for synchronicity. And wave patterns of all kinds (including music). And pulsars.
Labels: diary, geekery, science
10/05/2007 at 21:23
I am lying in bed, sipping Langer's Winter Blend (100% orange, pineapple, and passionfruit juice), recovering from the flu and from a terminated-rather-than-letting-it-get-terminal romantic involvement, listening to Zeppelin IV, pondering the perfidy of men and virii, and being bored out of my bloody skull. Not necessarily in that order, of course.
I cannot, in fact, decide what to think about men and romance (humans in general, really, only I'm straight, and so musing on romance tends to center around the male of the species), except that the situation seems to cause pendulation between abject buffoonery and exalted self-deception, though living in this particular greenhouse (the one containing the human race, I mean) I'm in no position to hurl any sort of stone.
And I've pretty much resolved my views on virii, Orson Scott Card aside (if you haven't read Speaker for the Dead, get off your duff and do so- it's one of the best meditations on sentience, xenobiology, scientific detachment in anthropology, and relative speciesism ever written, and also happens to be a very, very good science fiction novel). Ender Wiggin and pequeninos notwithstanding, I don't like 'em.
Boredom, however… I'm almost never bored, and I'm unused to it. I like being alone in a number of ways, and when I'm tired of being alone I can always call a friend or three and go someplace or do something, even if that something is only to call Dave, or Kristina, and tell either one that I'm bringing over a pot of tea and ginger thins or rum or coffee or whatever.
The aforementioned virii have, however, closed off that and all other options involving other people's presence- I've always had very strong views about not being around others while infectious- and so here am I, all the books in my house read, head too weak to sit up properly, eyes too glazed to watch an entire movie. Things have really burrowed through the bottom of the barrel when writing becomes a court of last resort…
What I am, in fact, doing is looking for something to ponder, and in the process writing a letter rather than an essay- though perhaps the only one of my readers who is likely to recognize this as such is Maria, Muina Colinda, wise woman and bearer of secrets. The characteristic neverending-and-yet-grammatically-correct-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth sentences, in particular, are a hallmark of our long correspondence- though, given my Bioethics' professor's comments on our most recent essay, perhaps no longer exclusive to our correspondence.
Ack. There are so many things running through my mind at the moment, any one of which would make an interesting essay topic- masculine ovoviviparity in seahorses, exploration of the Rub al'Khali, Anna Sui's bizarre 40's-and-glam-rock fall collection, the anomalous expansion of water at freezing, Maurice Bejart's choreography… but I can't settle down to any of it. Writing an essay means thinking of only one thing, and I honestly don't think my brain will tolerate that right now; if this is how people who genuinely have ADDHD feel all the time, then it's a wonder they ever get anything done at all, though I imagine with practice it might be easier to isolate and slow a particular train of thought. Then again, perhaps not, trains being notoriously unwieldy machines- and many of mine have all the weight and momentum of a Union Pacific Big Boy.
Sigh. Enough of this. My eyes are glazing and my fingers are missing key after key and maybe my body is telling me it's time to stop.
Wow. I'm actually listening to my body. Good thing there'll be a record of the date, because I won't remember it come morning…
Labels: diary, romance
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