The Real Bill III
Bill Long 11/07/04
Continuing on the Positive
I am talking now about the type of mind I have. I have mentioned that it is a generative and critical mind. Two more characteristics of my mind are also true.
(3) It is a retentive mind. I love that word, coming as it does from what is known as the "faculty psychology" of the 18th and 19th century in American intellectual history. This dawned on me as I found myself reading obituary notices in 19th century magazines and journals. Often a person would be commended for having a "rententive" mind. Indeed, one of the major arguments for having a classical curriculum (learning Greek and Latin) was that these languages helped cultivate retentiveness. Thus, Francis Wayland's (President of Brown) rather radical educational proposals in the 1830s (that there should be "electives;" that science education could replace classical education) were attacked because they would basically hurt our ability to cultivate a retentive mind in students.
With that historical detour in mind, I would say that my mind retains things exceptionally well. I can remember dates as if they were burnished on my mind. Ideas cling to me like nursery rhymes to a preschool teacher. I can remember and easily recall the dates of books, musical works, articles, legal cases, etc. But it is not just a memory that records or "photographs" things; it is a mind that uses these basic building blocks of knowledge to construct theories and refine ideas. So, I retain information better than others, and have to watch myself that it just doesn't become an occasion just to show off my skill. But I believe it is a gift, possibly cultivated over the years by my memorizing thousands of biblical verses and lines of Shakespeare.
(4) I have a polymathic mind. This is the admission that is hardest for me to make; an admission I could not permit myself to utter because it is anathema to the modern university and that was the world I thought, for so many years, should welcome me. The modern university believes in specialization and not polymathic ability. They thought that polymathy went out with the 15th century. But, it is true that I have a polymathic mind, and I finally have the courage to admit it. This does not mean that I know it all, or that I am interested in knowing it all, or that I aspire to know it all.
It means that I easily get to the foundations of knowledge of the several disciplines, can explain those foundations, can learn the hundreds of technical terms in a discipline with relative ease and can, as it were, be "on the same page" with accomplished scholars in a new field in a matter of days....sometimes minutes. I am interested in learning new fields, of course. For example, beginning in August 2004 I began combining the OED each day for insights on words. Starting in October 2004 I launched a study of gemstones and minerals. This is in addition to my law work. I find a great need to get to the bottom of concepts and language, to try to see what is meant by things and to make this knowledge known in a readily accessible fashion to other people. I now luxuriate in and readily admit my polymathic ambitions and knowledge. I have a great feeling of freedom when I do this, and I don't really care if those who have deeply burrowed into one field all their life feel that I am a "dilettante" or an amateur for so doing. Because of my ability to relate knowledge over several disciplines, I think that what I am doing gives a signal contribution to the growth of knowledge.
Moving on to the Fourth Point
If point one was about my web page, point two about my possessing one of the great minds of our day, and point three was divided into four subpoints regarding the type of mind I possess, point four is my last "positive" observation.
Fourth, if a student wants truly to prepare for graduate school in probably more than 20 fields (at the moment; it will grow, I hope), the best way to do so would be to make a close study of my essays. That is, by carefully reading and studying what I have written and the way I do it, a person will be more ready for doctoral work than doing almost anything else.
Let me clarify what I mean by this, however. It is not that I am giving new and unprecedented scholarship on everything. Far from it. But, if a student learns how to take the information I provide and put it in the intellectual context of which it speaks, that student will find that he/she has studied issues in far more depth than 99% of all undergraduates, that his/her observations are stunning and precise, and that he/she will not only impress professors with the growing store of his/her knowledge, but may actually scare them with the insight thus developed.
For example, a student could read and study my two essays on defenestration in "More Words" (see Site Map), and be led by that into 16-17th century European history in more depth than even a student who writes an honors thesis on some aspect of 16-17th century Europe. If such a student was studying with me, we could go deeper than doctoral students go with relative ease. Or, alternatively, if a student was studying minerals and gems, we could read a few of my essays on stones (see "More Words again), and be brought deeply into the worlds of gemology, petrology, mineralogy, geology and inorganic chemistry.
Thus, in a sense, my web site is "home schooling" for exceptionally smart university students who want to be intellectual leaders of the next generation. I think this is true as my total essay count stands at 477; I believe it will be more true as my site grows.
These comments conclude my personal positive self-assessment. The next essay talks about how I have entered into relationships with women and men and how one other (negative) part of my mind still rules me.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long