Sunday, July 8, 2007

Satori

Physics, chemistry, biology, math, English, ... I had a full and complicated course load. In spite of an earlier run with college and then four years in the Army, I still did not really know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I kept my options open, taking what amounted to a full pre-med course load. This time through, maybe I would settle down somewhere out in the country as a veterinarian...

I excelled in the coursework, but admittedly an "A" in some classes amounted to more work than in others. Rote memorization always required extra effort, for instance, and keeping an adequate level of interest in some topics was simply harder than others.

Satori comes in a flash, I am told, sometimes with the well-placed and well-timed whack of a stick...

"Have you ever considered becoming a mathematician?"

Well, of course not. Why would I? Math is simply a requirement for every program that is heavy on the sciences. Otherwise I probably would not be in this class in the first place. I would find a way to test out of it if I did not need the credit hours...

"Just stop for a second and take a look at yourself."

I came to math class between the others, exhausted. I would leave my books, notebooks, and everything else behind, bringing only myself to class. If there were any questions that I could not answer immediately, I could generally work out the details in a few minutes. I naturally understood the different theorems and formulas; rather than memorizing them for tests, I would take a few minutes to derive them on the fly, leaving tell-tale notes in the margins of my papers.

Math class was where I came to relax.

"You have a gift for this."

So what? What does it mean to have a gift for something that is so easy?

Wait a minute... Oh!

And there was the epiphany.

Somehow I had developed the belief that the Path that I was supposed to pursue was going to be the most difficult Path that I could successfully navigate given my talents and skills. Somehow, an easy Path had no value---it would be a waste of my talent.

How could I have been so blind to the obvious?

I was a mathematician for a while, though later I left that Path for a more general technical problem solver where the mathematical way of thinking serves well. It was not time wasted, nor was that lesson forgotten.

It was just one minor brush with Enlightenment, however minor... I am hopeful there will be more.

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