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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Daily Prompt: The Not-So Good Old Days

Hey, folks. Tonight’s Daily Prompt is all about “salad days.” It’s a saying that refers to a great or memorable time in your life, usually seen through the lens of nostalgia. This one’s kind of tricky for me, because I’ve realized that some of my “good old days” weren’t so good in retrospect. My knee-jerk answer is to say my university years, specifically the time leading up to my graduation. Getting my bachelor’s degree was, from an achievement standpoint, the crowning moment of my life. I strode across that stage in a black cap and gown, practically drowning in the sweat of a 110-degree June morning. Reaching that moment wasn’t quite so easy; paying for my entire college education out of my own pocket taught me the value of discipline, patience, and motivation. I still cherish those long commutes on BART, dosing off involuntarily every morning, and desperately trying to do as much work as possible on the way back. Those insane 2 AM essay writing sessions, staying awake just long enough to perfect every last sentence. Working part time jobs, scraping by with every last penny, learning to appreciate the taste of canned peas…It was physically and mentally exhausting, but it was so satisfying. Doing something for myself – be it working towards a goal, building something with my hands, climbing a mountain, whatever – makes me feel more alive. Something was forged in that academic crucible, and I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

Looking back, however, I now realize it came with a cost. I was so focused on academics and not wasting time, I sacrificed everything else. Most folks associate college with partying, beer, romance, and the development of one’s identity. I had none of that; I never went out for the sake of going out, never developed any relationships, nothing. You ever try talking about astrophysics or Renaissance Literature in a social setting? Not fun. I often had the same classmates in different lectures, but I only regarded them as familiar faces, not actual individuals with lives of their own. That was a huge mistake on my part; I may have been at the top of my classes, but I was an absolute dunce as social and interpersonal relations. Reading and learning are much more fun when you can share the experience. I’m still really introverted and shy around people, but even I recognize the importance and necessity of interacting with others. It’s not about being the life of the party or center of attention; it’s about finding common ground and helping each other grow. There’s an old saying that “no man is an island.” I’m 30, and I’m just now starting to turn my proverbial island into a peninsula.

If I have any legitimate “good old days,” they were probably in the summer of 2013. For the first time in my life, I had free time to indulge in more things I truly enjoy: traveling and exploration. I usually travel abroad once or twice a year (including a certain last-minute winter surprise that’ll be revealed soon!), but circumstances put me in downtown San Francisco twice a week. I had hours to fill in a city that I’d never really seen before. So, I walked. And walked. And walked. I’d intentionally get myself lost by taking random turns, navigating by my sense of direction and knowledge of certain landmark locations. I’ve mapped out about a third of the city on foot, wandering through neighborhoods, exploring foreign markets, climbing all the hills I could find…Those adventures made me realize how much I enjoy photography; before that, I was firmly entrenched in the written medium. Judging by the photo gallery here, my adventures paid off in spades. Most folks in the city are so focused on their phones, they don’t notice the marvels around them…The happiest moment of that summer was looking down at the curved city landscape from the top of Lombard Street, with the sun shining on my back, and a steady breeze blowing through my hair.

I hope the coming days will be even better.

Words Without Voice

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about expression. Specifically, how you express yourself creatively. This one’s pretty simple for me, because writing is practically the only way I express myself. I spend most of my time either reading or writing something, and I’m really shy. I absolutely thrive when I’m exploring and wandering alone. I’m fine in a professional or one-on-one setting. But adding lots of people makes things…messy. If you met me at a party (probably hiding in a corner with a book), you’d rarely get more than politeness and a smile out of me. I never know what to say in social situations, and my voice is too soft for most people to hear. Some people have said I’m intimidating. I also think much faster than I speak, so I have to make a conscious effort to slow down verbally. Otherwise, it can come out as gibberish. With all that trouble, why bother wasting my breath? Writing is much more natural to me; I can collect my thoughts and focus without worrying about scaring other people away.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m okay with that. It’s really frustrating to be the quiet type. Human beings are social creatures, and the Internet takes it to the logical extreme. We’re constantly bombarded with tweets, videos, ads, etc. about everything we can possibly think of. While it’s a great snapshot of the modern world, it’s tough to sort out all the ideas and find the individuals buried beneath it. That’s especially true for writers; I could weave together an incredibly detailed narrative about the history of a game company, but it’d probably get overshadowed by the latest funny cat-related video. I’ve been laying the groundwork for a Let’s Play channel on YouTube or Twitch – I even have a microphone and recording software – but I’ve found that my voice really is as soft as I feared. You think public speaking is tough? Try talking into a mic and making your live video gaming sessions sound interesting. It’s harder than it looks. I just don’t have the personality for it. Since there’s no way I can be as loud or obnoxious as most players, I’ll inevitably be drowned out.

It’s the same thing with music. I’ve memorized dozens – if not hundreds – of songs in my head, but I can’t actually sing them out loud. I’ve got Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure down perfectly, but only a tiny fraction of Freddie Mercury’s range. I’ve tried karaoke exactly twice, and I ended up just reading the words onscreen. Yeah, it’s not fun being booed and laughed offstage. My sense of rhythm isn’t much better; I have trouble with dancing and even simple music-based games. I fare much better when it comes to capturing moments via painting and photography. In my college years, I could sit for hours with a canvas and a set of brushes and colors. I’ve got a good eye for shading and perspective. Drawing is much harder, though. I’ve grown accustomed to taking my camera with me everywhere, just in case I stumble across something fascinating. All of my photos – including the ones I’ve posted on the blog – are taken with no preparation whatsoever. Judging by the feedback I’ve been getting, I’m pretty good for a newbie. If I keep at it, maybe I’ll be great someday.

Until then, writing is all that counts.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie, Or: Curls Aplenty

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie, Or: Curls Aplenty

I know this week’s entry is cutting it kind of close, but I didn’t have much time to do a proper portrait. Besides, I dislike how my face looks in pictures. I can never make the smile look natural, so I either look super stern or just goofy. Besides, I’m not exactly keen on putting my face online anyway. Instead, I thought I’d get a shot of what most people notice first about me: the hair. Please note that I haven’t brushed it in about 12 hours.