The Real Bill II
Bill Long 11/07/04
Assessing the Present, Both Good and Bad
I have gotten rid of a bad demon that stalked me for years. But there are two other things quite basic to my sense of personal identity that remain: one a very positive thing and one with potentially negative impacts. Let's turn to the positive thing in this essay.
Relating to the World Again
For the years immediately before and after my October 1, 2001 divorce I felt that I was in a sort of intellectual tunnel or tube. As my home-life crumbled, the rest of my life was focused either on my study or work (before 2001) or my son and my commuting to work (after 2001). Gradually, however, I opened up to the world again, finding new friends, both male and female, who seemingly wanted to enter my life and who appreciated me in ways that I didn't think I was appreciated previously. Through their entry into my life and my own long hours of self-assessment, I have concluded the following about myself. IF YOUR ARE OFFENDED BY VERY POSITIVE SELF-EVALUATION, STOP READING HERE, PLEASE. DON'T SAY THAT I DIDN'T WARN YOU!
Me On Myself
I have concluded several things about myself, which I believe are utterly true and which I hesitated to say about myself for years, principally because you weren't supposed to think about yourself in the way I will now speak. First, I concluded that my web page is the most ambitious individual intellectual project of our time. I didn't conclude this immediately, nor at essay 100, 200 or even 300. When I had written about 400 essays it dawned on me that what I am doing here is not being done by (and probably can't be done by) anyone else. The variety of essays, fields covered, insights provided, language used, angles presented and integration of the heart and the head in learning is unprecedented. I believe this is true. The essays in this collection cover subjects as diverse as classical Greece and Rome, biblical studies, medieval world, early modern world modern days, linguistics, history, philosophy, anthropology, gemology, law, literature and a host of other fields.
Second, partially as a result of seeing my web page unfold, I believe I possess one of the great minds of our time. I believe that others are beginning to share that view. My intellectual energy and focus since I began to write these essays in February 2004 has been the greatest of my life. I am now turning out the equivalent of more than one book a month (if a book is 200 pages) of essays, many of which are of extraordinary quality.
Third, I have reflected quite a bit on the type of mind that I have. Actually a conversation with a distinguised 80 year-old retired jurist helped me to focus this point. He said that what always characterized his mind was its critical component. He felt that even at age 80 he is still sharp in this area (I believe he is correct), though he believes his "creative mind" is dimming slightly. His comments helped me see for the first time the ways I categorize my mind. I categorize it in four ways.
Meeting My Mind
(1) I have a remarkably generative mind. This aspect of my mind enables me not simply to think up new ideas but to relate bodies of knowledge and insights to each other in strikingly original ways. When I lived in Kansas from 1990-96, one of the families I most appreciated was an old Kansas farm family that homesteaded their land in the 1880s. One of the brothers from the "WWII generation" (Don) lived on the family property; the others had left the farm and made their mark on the world in several fields. Don stayed behind and was known as the local genius.
He constructed a pipe organ so that beautiful music could play in their house all the time; he wrote music and poetry after listening to some of my sermons (putting my thoughts to song); he seemingly knew how to make everything work. Often we would have conversations about creativity, and he likened the creative process to going down to a flowing stream each day and dipping in a jug to get a fresh draught of limpid water. He didn't worry if he "missed" a day or two; the stream was always flowing with more than he could ever draw out. Above all, he was a contented and very humble man. The reason that Don Brownlee always will be in my mind is that we discovered something about each other through these conversations: what it was like to have overflowing minds.
(2) I have a remarkably critical mind. By critical I do not, of course, mean that I just find negative things to say about everything, but that I can and do evaluate most everything that comes my way. I can skillfully place things in historical context. I seek to understand the bases on which something is founded; I try to comprehend if something is expressed well or confidently. I attempt to ascertain what is missing from the account in order to make it convincing, persuasive or even useful.
It is only in the last year or so that I have become more fully comfortable in using this skill. When I was married, I felt that I couldn't make critical remarks about anything, and so I repressed this inclination. I felt that when I bought into the feminist philosophy in the 1970s (more about that in 52 and Strangely Found) that it was illegal to criticize women, for example. I then broadened this to other categories of people, so that I only recall myself telling people how "wonderful" everything always was. Perhaps that relates to my "panic attacks" narrated in the previous essay. But now I speak critically and confidently about peoples' efforts in writing/movies/oral presentation/thought. I am very happy that this is developing.
Oops. I will need another essay just to finish out the positive sense of myself.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long