Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reading Log

Journal Entry

It’s been a very busy time for me since I started my new job. For a while I was getting up an hour early every day in order to continue with my reading project, then in the evenings I had begun working on programming and tech related materials. Before long I was absolutely exhausted and unable to continue. And at this point my reading project is on hold as I delve deeper into my technical studies.

Before I lost my last job, I was routinely getting 5 hours of sleep or less and doing nothing but working. I had stopped reading and was losing my thought life to mere “tech.” When I lost my job, I tried to continue with my technical studies, but with the growing frustration of the general lack of interest in my résumé let alone my mind (a harder, and less immediate thing to evaluate) by those who were hiring, I very quickly diverted myself into more immediately pleasurable studies—bread, literature, music, movies—and the false dichotomy of mind vs. the bogey of schematizing “tech” continued and strengthened.

The simple fact, however, is that as satisfying and nurturing as are bread, literature, music, and movies they will not, for me, bring home the bacon. And, I think I am realizing, they represent a sort of comfort blanket, perhaps even a pacifier, to the extent that I use them to avoid dealing with the challenges of making a living.

After spending some time with various programming books, I started on the intro level Computer Science class from MIT’s OpenCourseWare program. (MIT have done a great thing in making their class materials, sometimes even video lectures, freely available to the public.) It didn’t take long for me to run into one of my most frustrating limitations: mathematics. I hated all maths in gradeschool. I took only the minimum required of me as both a high school student and as a first year music major. I am now realizing that this was a missed opportunity, attributable to laziness, pride, and timidity. I simply didn’t want to confront what wasn’t easy for me. I don’t want to do that at which I am not immediately skilled. But of course, it is an adult’s recognition that for most of us natural ability counts for very little. And for those for whom it counts for more, it is still considerably less meaningful than their dedication to their craft.

I started looking at MIT’s mathematics offerings. Their math starts with Calculus. I barely remember more than the most basic algebra, let alone geometry or trigonometry. And so off I have gone in pursuit of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry refreshers. I have not yet settled into any particular course or book, so suggestions are welcome.

I have come to realize that mathematics is simply another language, and as such, it can be learned, and more importantly, in the process of learning it, my thought structures will be broadened. It isn’t an either/or between the artistic and the technological, between the spirit and the rational mind. Most of the old masters knew this very well. I suspect that the opposition has grown with the dehumanizing effect we have collectively experienced since the industrial revolution. The complete person isn’t an artist or a mathemetician. The complete person is both, bringing each to bear on the other. And so, I find that I have been limiting myself as a person in shying away from maths. It’s time to embrace the other half.


  1. Thanks for informing how life's going for you. There just has to be a better work-play balance to life developed. People need both to make bread, read and reflect as much, no more, no less than work. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy . But it can be a bit soul--destroying with a vast canvas of time to fill and no money as well.

    Spot on about the complete person being both an artist and scientist, sadly such people, like Browne, himself a keen mathematician, seem to have died out about 1650 with a few notable exceptions. I need to acquire a basic math qualification myself, this post encourages me to embrace my fear of numbers!

  2. I'm much better situated to tackle various types of mathematics now. Because of my experience with computers and some light programming, I find math makes more sense now, and it certainly has application.

    At any rate, it looks like I'm going to have to put the MIT material on a back burner while I work on algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. I think I can cram all of that into about 6 months worth of work. My end goal isn't to be anything like expert at math, but literate.


Don't be a jerk.