Taking Another Proverbial First Step

Hey, folks. Yesterday’s Daily Prompt was to rewrite your very first post, armed with a year’s worth of blogging experience. For reference, here’s the original. Hmmm, should be interesting…

In retrospect, I can totally believe I spent years without a personal blog. It wasn’t so much an oversight as it was a method of avoidance. Writing is second nature to me, but social interaction – even via the internet – certainly isn’t. As an introvert who leads often leads a life of guarded solitude, baring my soul and personal views to complete strangers is quite difficult. I’m still working on it.

A polymath is a person whose expertise spans several and varied subjects. It is something that I aspire to be, and I named the blog Polymathically as a reflection of that ambition. I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’ve reached the lofty heights of Galileo or da Vinci, but I believe it’s something to strive for. I believe that cultivating one’s mind, skills, and interests is absolutely necessary for living fully. I was inspired by Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier and the similarities between polymathic traits and the concept of sprezzatura. It’s the reason why the phrase “Renaissance Man” and polymathy are, despite technical differences, essentially synonymous in popular culture.

Upon further reflection, I’ve also been heavily influenced by Nietzsche. Most people associate him with the idea that life is inherently pointless, and therefore not worth living. Anyone who’s actually read his work will tell you otherwise; life is indeed pointless, but that doesn’t prevent individuals from determining how they live it. We’re all mortal and stuck here together, so why not make this situation as awesome as we can? Don’t know about you, but that’s an idea I can get behind. The same goes for the Übermensch, a concept in which a person can reject society’s values and morals and create their own. It’s slippery, potentially dangerous slope (it was certainly co-opted in the worst ways in the 20th Century), but I believe that it’s a goal to which anyone can – and should – aspire.

Especially you.

Think about it. In our society, there’s a pervasive belief that someone can only be interested in subjects based solely on his or her personality, aptitude, gender, sexuality, political leanings, potential employment, etc. The implications aren’t pretty, and we’re bombarded with such expectations on a daily basis. But if you take a step back, you’ll realize how little of that actually matters. Will being left or right-brained really affect what you’re passionate about? Why should a person’s sex stir up so many taboos and double standards? Don’t limit yourself to others’ categories. You should figure it out yourself, the good old-fashioned way. Try something new, even if you fail miserably at first. Read a book. Learn another language or how to play an instrument. Climb mountains. Travel somewhere. Experience another culture. Ask questions. Do something, anything to push yourself just a little bit further. You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of.

…Just keep it keep it sane and legal. Common sense is a wonderful thing.

I’ve applied this ideal to my own life. My curiosity and love of exploration are among my core traits. If something catches my eye, I will learn everything I can about it. The origin, functionality, significance, and everything else. The subject doesn’t matter. As a result, this blog is an eclectic blend of literature, photography, travel, science, film, video games, anime, music, and countless others. I regularly read about the astronomy, physics, biology, geology, mythology, history, psychology, and critical theory. I also love traveling, so expect plenty of excellent (and judging by the readership, spotlight-stealing) shots taken throughout my travels. My goal isn’t just to satisfy my own wonder, but to inspire yours.

Stay curious, folks.

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Zero To Hero Day 21: Building Upon A Post

Hey, folks. Day 21’s assignment was all about building upon and/or explaining the post from Day 19. I chose to use quotes because…well, I’ve tried pretty much all the other formats. Rather than sticking with a specific quote, I chose a group of them that not only reflected my thoughts on this blog, but arranged them in a way that would form something resembling narrative. I’ll just give them a brief run-down:

  • Jorge Luis Borges blew my mind when I first read his work, and the quote I used seemed to capture the feeling all too well. Causality is fascinating, be it in a philosophical or religious context. Borges wasn’t sure about what his storytelling was going to do, only that there were stories. It’s the same thing when I post something here; I find it cool and interesting, but I can’t account for others’ biases or beliefs. All I can do is tell it the way I can, and hope it’s good enough.
  • The dedication page for House of Leaves always stood out for me. That book is several mind-screws all bundled up into one, and “This is not for you” is just one of the earliest ways it messes with your expectations. I want to do the same with my blog; I want to get you to wonder, to think. And much like that quote, I don’t just blog for everyone else; I blog for myself, too.
  • The third quote comes from my favorite fighting game ever. If you want a great example of video game role models, Ryu would probably be high on the list. He doesn’t just want to fight for the sake of violence; he wants to experience and learn new things. His quote is kind of my unofficial mantra.
  • The fourth one is that infamous reveal from The Shining. It serves as a counter to the previous quote; if you spend so much time focusing on objectives and improvement, you can lose sight of who you are, and the life around you. There has to be a balance somewhere, and it’s good to have a reminder of that. On an unrelated note, The Shining is one of my all-time favorite movies.
  • Solid Snake’s rant is the capstone to the infamously mind-screwy Metal Gear Solid 2 ending. The entire game is essentially one long lesson on postmodernism, and this little speech is probably the most straightforward moment you’ll ever get. Snake basically argues that we as individuals are more than just producers of the next generation. We can show them – and each other – what is important to us. We are survived by what we pass on. That’s a sentiment I want my blog to reflect.
  • Blood Meridian is one of my favorite novels. Not because of the setting or the brutality – Judge Holden is such an amazing character – but how the story is told. The imagery is so vivid, and…I better stop now before I start ranting. The quote I used reinforces my curiosity; I want to be the one who pulls the tapestry and takes life on his own terms. And I want you to try, too; you can’t fully live if you don’t ask questions.
  • Moving The River by Prefab Sprout is one of many, many one-hit wonders I have on my playlist. I prefer the acoustic to the regular version, though. It’s about a guy who’s disappointed with life, and must comes to terms with his parents – and his own – expectations. I’m very much the same. As the title implies, living takes Herculean strength; the song even ends with “but it takes such an effort/to stay where I am…” The lyrics I chose reflect my doubt over the subject matter I choose to post. A few of my interests and hobbies aren’t exactly…mainstream, and I worry about alienation and abandonment over them.
  • …Like depression, for example. Out Of My Head is a late 90’s hit about personal reflection, regret, and doubt. Despite its simplicity, the song manages to be tear-jerking and introspective. I quoted it to reflect my issues with depression (and mental health in general) and how it’s one of those taboo subjects. How are we as a society supposed to combat such illnesses if we don’t talk about them?
  • The next quote is just a continuation of same idea. It’s worth noting that Gotta Knock A Little Harder is all about someone overcoming their fears and doubts, even if they have to bust through their own emotional barriers to do it. I’m working on that part. This song is part of Cowboy Bebop’s tremendous soundtrack, and I highly recommend that you give it all a listen sometime.
  • Stardust Melody is an old, amazing song. It’s not about love, but idealizing love. After time and lives have past, all you have are the memories. I worry about that; maybe I’m doing this all in vain, but I still do it. It’s an incredibly lonely, but peaceful song. I listen to it sometimes before going to bed. I wanted to link to my favorite version – Mel Torme with just a piano – but I couldn’t find a video for it.
  • The Late Lament is a poem that comes after the ending of the Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin. It depicts a somber, lonely evening in which people settle in for the night. The part at the end struck me because of its defiant tone. Despite all the sadness and doubt, we are the ones who decide how to live. It’s a reminder to never give up.
  • The last quote is actually a quote of a quote. “You’re gonna carry that weight” comes from the Beatles song, but the line is also featured at the final screen of Cowboy Bebop. There’s a very good reason why it shows up, and I’m not going to spoil it for you. Basically, you have to live with the decisions and actions you take. Be it guilt, sadness, desire, pleasure…you carry those moments and memories around for the rest of your life. I want my blog to not only share such things, but to help me going into the future.

Zero To Hero Day 1: Introduction

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/zero-to-hero/

Hey, folks. Got a question: How curious are you? No, seriously. Think about it. How often do you take a proverbial step back and just wonder about the world around you? It’s so easy to get distracted. To never explore and merely take things for granted. To let the awesome, crazy, beautiful, mysterious aspects of our lives fly completely under the radar. Even when you do notice, understanding and learning from it is tricky. Pushing yourself like that is hard; it’s the kind of effort that can build or shatter your identity. Maybe both.

But it is worth it.

I titled my blog “polymathically” as a reflection of that effort. A polymath is one whose expertise spans several and varied subjects. It’s commonly associated with individuals like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, etc. I’m not arrogant enough to think I’ve attained such lofty heights. But I do share one trait with them: curiosity. You want to learn something? You ask about it. It’s one of the driving forces behind everything I do. The basic concept of Renaissance humanism has always struck a chord with me. What is an individual truly capable of, and how far can they develop it? It’s something that I’ve striven to apply to everyday life. For some reason, there’s a pervasive belief that a person can be interested in subjects based solely on his or her personality, gender, aptitude, or employment. It’s not only silly, but inherently limiting as well. You choose your interests, no one else. Live with purpose. Try something new, anything that will expand your horizons just even just a little bit. You might surprise yourself.

…Just don’t do anything illegal. Use common sense. Okay?

This blog is an outlet for my curiosity. Aside from a journal and Daily Prompt entries, I’ll post about anything that happens to catch my interest. I have a fiery, unbridled passion for literature, movies, anime, pop culture, and video gaming, so expect references, analyses, and reviews of them. I’ve got a soft spot for great music, particularly video game soundtracks. I’m also a huge history and humanities geek, so you might come across posts about modern mythology or the importance of a holiday. Or links to something scientific, like the mass of trees or rare precious metals. I also fancy myself a bit of a world traveler (12 countries and counting) and take tons of awesome photos to capture it all. But deep down, I’m a storyteller; there will be plenty of real-life narratives (including a Freshly Pressed one) to read as well. Or if you’re like me and struggle with introversion, you’ll have another perspective to read. Regardless of what you enjoy about this blog, the point is that you learn something new.

I never lost my sense of wonder. I hope you haven’t, either.

Daily Prompt: Love to Love You, Or: Curiosity Won’t Kill This Cat

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt focuses on love. Specifically, what you love most about yourself and your favorite person. This one is kind of tricky for a couple of reasons. I’m hardly social, so I don’t have a favorite person. I’m also prone to deep, dark bouts of cynicism and self-criticism; catch me in a bad mood and I’ll really show you to difference between misanthropy and existential nihilism. It’s not pretty, trust me. The whole “love thyself” thing has always seemed weird to me. I mean, I understand its purpose and its inherently therapeutic nature, but putting it into practice is much more difficult.

My knee-jerk reaction to the prompt is to say intelligence. I love being the Sherlock/chessmaster/philosophical/scientific/bookworm type. And I absolutely love women who can engage me both intellectually and creatively. The best relationships involve teaching and learning from each other. Even on my own, there’s so much potential to be had with it.  I can devour books with reckless abandon. I can pick up languages with ease. I can pick up details and read people with a glance.

…Sounds narcissistic, doesn’t it? See, that’s the problem a lot of folks have with intelligence. For some reason, being smart is associated with arrogance, vanity, self-centeredness, etc. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite fictional characters ever, but he’d probably be a really aggravating roommate or coworker. Seriously, go read A Study In Scarlet. Dr. Watson is a skilled surgeon and war veteran, but he quickly realizes just how weird his new friend is. Look at the titular character from the House television series. The man is absolutely brilliant, yet he thinks it gives him free reign to be an unrepentant (most of the time) misanthrope. His ego and vices prevent him from reaching his full potential. Even Batman, Lex Luthor, and Doctor Doom, three of the most intelligent characters ever put to ink, are held back by their respective obsessions. The same goes with Kira and L from Death Note. Spock doesn’t lack emotions just so he can play off the better-balanced Kirk; it’s because his character arc is all about developing his humanity.

You don’t even need to look into fiction to see something similar. You probably know someone (or maybe it’s you!) that has a huge library of classics. Maybe they acquired the books for their studies. Maybe they like reading stuff in the original languages. I know someone that proudly displays his Russian edition of War and Peace on his top shelf. He’s never actually read it; he just likes telling people that he could read it. See the difference? I’ve read War and Peace, but my copy is tucked safely down in storage. It would take up way too much room on my shelf. It’s also too heavy to be a practical traveling companion. I own the entirety of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, but it’s all crammed into a section of my closet because I don’t have anywhere else to put it.

…Going on a tangent. Sorry.

The point is that intellect alone is not what makes it appealing. It’s the way such a personality is cultivated that makes the difference. Intelligence not just for its own sake, but the hows and whys as well. Which brings me back to the prompt and my answer: the favorite aspect of myself is my curiosity. I don’t study stuff just because I want to look smarter than everyone else. You don’t have to be a show-off for people to know how brilliant you supposedly are. I study stuff because I want to know how everything works. It doesn’t matter what it is; if it catches my eye and looks interesting, I will try to learn everything I can about it. Questions lead to knowledge and skills, which lead to more perspective, experience, and furthering potential. That insatiable need to seek is a quality I wish more people had. I need to explore, to get lost, and find my way. I can’t just take reality as it is; I want to understand every last detail. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn something about myself along the way.

What do you love about yourself, and why? Think about it.