Friday, April 26, 2013

So Many Books

I have read many thousands of books. I don't say that to brag. I am not even sure if it is a thing to be vaunted or a thing to be hidden away like a teenage diary. It is perhaps a matter to regret how much time, just physical time, I have spent reading. There is so much I could have done with that time--at least theoretically. Not that I didn't do things, I did a lot of things, traveled,climbed mountains, walked beside the sea, shared good times with good people, drank way too much beer, but I could have, perhaps, done more, even, somewhat ironically, written more.

It is not like all those books were profound or life changing or even offered any new knowledge of the world, it's people, or of myself. I would say that most of them were probably the intellectual equivalent of watching a tv show or going to a popular movie. Science fiction, mysteries, thrillers, historical novels, most are disposable, offering momentary distractions from boredom or the occasional existential angst. Nothing is more comforting to me than to curl up on the end of the couch with a book. For the most part they are ways of getting lost in more interesting, more adventuresome lives without the accompanying risk and toil.

There are exceptions of course; there are always exceptions. There are some science fiction novels and stories, in particular, that will be with me forever. More on that on another day. I have also read many of the so called great books, literature, philosophy, history, science, biography, etc. Many moved me tremendously and a few bored me more than two economists talking in depth about variations in the liborg scores.

Over the years I have tended to focus or obsess on particular writers, often for years at a time. In high school it was William Butler Yeats and T.S. Eliot. Then, for years I focused on Ezra Pound, especially the Cantos. More on that someday. I read most of Freud and Jung. I spent years on Louis Zukofsky's "A" and The Maximus poems of Olsen. I have spent probably a decade reading and retreading the various works of Heidegger. And I spent a least five years on the cryptic poetry of Paul Celan. Other obsessions include classical poetry in Greek and Latin, with a particular obsession, for reasons I can not adequately explain, with the poetry of the Hellenistic poet Kallimachos.

My obsessions do not necessarily result in full acceptance of the work. I pretty much reject the theories of Freud and Jung and I have serious questions about most of the others. To a certain extent I just like delving into tomes, the thicker, the more obscure the better. It helps me maintain the self delusion that I am somehow smarter than the average bear to quote Yogi.

I also have read, and continue to read, many books on science and the history of science. I am especially interested in physics and astronomy, but I have read books on evolution, genetics, and information theory.

Along with all these, I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of technical books on mastering certain software, or learning programming languages.

So what does it add up to?

Probably nothing, in the end. I know too much to be sure of anything. Lately I have been wondering how to reconcile the major interests and influences in my life. How do I bring literature, philosophy, science and technology together in a way makes sense, but is not a lie, not simply an artifact of language, a book among far too many books?

That is what I am going to focus this bog on for the foreseeable future: bringing things together, making sense of it.