I was consuming in the dining hall and seated across from me was a pale, wiry guy eating his meals methodically and with fantastic precision. He looked like an consuming machine.
‘How’s it going?’ I asked.
‘Fine’, came his reply, ‘except I practically missed dinner. That happened final week and I had to go out to Elsie’s to get dinner. I can get distracted in the stacks and lose all concept of time.’
Stacks which means library stacks and Widener becoming a single of the world’s largest libraries. He completed his meal and neatly crossed his knife and fork even though we were supposed to bus our own table. Even the blue bloods.
‘I am a researcher and I commit all my time in the stacks. I go there when they open at 8:00 in the morning and leave when they close at midnight. The only time I am not there is when I consume or go back to my apartment to sleep. And when they close for Christmas. I assume you are a student?’
‘Freshman with the quite usual stuff. Classes and study and parties on the weekend. Do not you go to any parties?’
‘What for?’ he laughed, ‘I’m privy to all sorts of fascinating stories and histories and why go to a boring party?’
‘Girls,’ I laughed, ‘that’s the best purpose I know.’
‘And even though you are out carousing or whatever you get in touch with it, I will be buried in some ancient text that is spelling out the secrets of the universe. I never really go out.’
‘But don’t you miss out, you know, with all the politics and activities and girls?’
‘I get to appear at a continuum throughout history and that is some thing your silly frat parties never do for me. I get to see the ideal and worst and most fascinating of human action and thought what would I gain at a frat celebration?’
Naturally not a date, I thought.
The guy excused himself, stood up and left.
I sat there for a minute trying to gather my thoughts and concluded that cat had some crossed wires. Life was for living and it was not attainable to reside in a library. It was a fantastic large globe out there and one merely could not encounter it vicariously by means of the writings of other people.
It had to be hands on. There was no other way but to go out into the planet and straight encounter it. Besides, all the Beats mentioned so, no?
For several years that argument produced sense.
And that’s how I left it the creepy researcher living out his life in dusty stacks of old books and papers when all about the globe was teeming with life and excitement creating stacks of paper look so extremely dreary.
I went my way and I’m positive he went his. I traveled the world and he most probably dug deeper into the stacks.
The years passed and I stopped going to frat parties and political demonstrations. Even girls became impractical when I picked up a wife. Whenever I would read about a frat party or demonstration my brain would automatically fire out the warning ‘Been there, accomplished that!’ In addition to, even if I wanted to go my wife would not let me.
I’ve come to recognize that men and women can have effective experiences even though these experiences aren’t what are normally known as hands on huge-time adventure. Back in my traveling days I believed adventure meant exotic faces in exotic places. It still is but now I know it is a lot more than that.
On the other hand, I’ve also come to the conclusion that some people can delude themselves so properly that their delusions turn out to be genuine. Reality is what you believe it is. Or something like that.
And as the years went by my pondering that the researcher’s reality was flawed started to be significantly less certain.
Given that then I’ve come complete spectrum and concluded that neither of us was appropriate on that Cambridge night so several years ago. Encounter is what sticks in the head and craw and that can be what we consider as properly. Or read. It can be what we discover in the jungles of Maya Mexico or in the archives of Widener Library.
But does it actually matter? Can’t the human brain adapt to virtually any circumstance and situation?
The neuroscientists are now telling us that expertise tends to make up 75-80% of our psyche. In other words, offered a complete deck of genes, we turn out to be what we knowledge. What they don’t say is what type of expertise and if it matters.
It has to matter. Given that ‘experience is us’, many concerns float right away to the surface.
Can we system encounter? What constitutes a very good or development enhancing knowledge? If we have junk experiences do we grow to be junk? Can I trade in some of my junk experience for some good quality knowledge? Exactly where do I hang my materialism and most importantly, what do I do with all my stuff?
And so on. For his sake I hope my dining area amigo got out into the globe a lot more and felt the fantastic rush of energy and excitement that is to be found everywhere. For my sake I should almost certainly uncover a great library and bury myself in analysis for a couple of years. My wife would approve as lengthy as there are no dancing girls. It all appears to tend to a state of equilibrium. Ying and yang and what not. Do the years even things out?
In the end I now realize we have been both a lot a lot more alike than various. Sadly, it took me a lifetime of experience to discover that out, although much better late than by no means.
I doubt neither of us would have traded locations but that is OK as well. To every single his own and his own knowledge, and we ought to always be thankful when we are fortunate sufficient to acquire a little insight into the psyche of other individuals.
And we don’t have to go to exotic areas.