One of my strengths (I think) is my limitless curiosity and desire to learn as much as possible about the world and everything in it. One of my weaknesses (I know) is also my limitless curiosity and desire to learn as much as possible about the world and everything in it. It is far too distracting and unproductive a lot of the time.
The Internet hasn’t helped. Despite my retreat from online activity in recent months and my attempts to rediscover the art of uninterrupted reading, I now find I am doing the equivalent of clicking on links even when reading in real life. The OUP A Very Short Introduction series is especially helpful for the incorrigible investigation of interesting branch lines. Thus this week saw a serious attempt to catch up of contemporary critical theory extend into reacquaintance with classical mythology and classics in general. And by the time I’d got that far, I’d misplaced the original book I was trying to read. Such is life.
But I’ve recently realised that although my curiosity may be limitless, there are limits to satisfying it.
It’s exam season at the moment, and I had cause to overnight in Prodigal Son’s student house the other week. There was some serious revision going on, and some seriously heavy tomes littering the communal living room. I idly opened a maths book. and glanced at a couple of pages.
A pleasing layout of symbols and words leapt out at me, but when I tried to focus in on the detail, I was dismayed to find that every sentence was completely unintelligible. It could have been in Sanskrit or Greek. It wouldn’t have mattered how many hours I devoted to the cause: I realised I was probably incapable of understanding those cryptic and enigmatic marks.
The experience was unsettling. I liked to think I was potentially interested in any topic, anywhere. Now I feel a bit like AA Milne’s Tigger. I like everything in the world. Except the things I discover I don’t.
But I’m in awe of all those students everywhere at this time of year with their heads stuck in impenetrably dense and obtuse textbooks.
Best of luck to them all.