The down side is, of course, the more you know, the more you realize how little you know and how much more there is to learn. That’s a bit frustrating.
I’m an English nerd. A big ol’ geek. The Playfriends groan when I start babbling about “the house as a metaphor” or “the betrayal of suspended disbelief.” But I find it fascinating.
(They're quite long -- but worth a read -- but I'll tell you that they offer critical analysis of love and romance in the Buffy-verse and a wonderful discussion of character. If you want to write romance, I recommend them both for how to look at a character and character arc.)
Now, I’m a huge Jenny Crusie fan. I’m also a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fan. I think romance rocks, and I love a good meaty analysis. To find all that in one place… Geek-gasm.
And then I felt really, really stupid. Not just because Jenny does such an awesome job (in such an entertaining way) synthesizing a huge amount of source material into her analysis. Not just because I was nodding my head all the way through. (That’s the sign of good analysis. It makes sense. Maybe you didn’t know it consciously or couldn’t have articulated it even if you did, but you know she’s right. That’s why Riley always irritated me a little and why I loved Spike so much.) No, I felt stupid because there was no way I’d have been able to synthesize and articulate it so well. What happened to my critical thinking skills?
Dog knows, I’ve analyzed things to death and pulled some crazy crap out of my butt (“Noetic Abundance and Romantic Ideology in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” anyone? Maybe “Self-Created Psychological Captivity.” Oh, and my personal favorite: “Is Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet) Bi-Polar or a Repressed Homosexual?). Yep, I wrote those papers. They still live in my hard drive, and as I looked them over to pull the titles, I wavered between impressed at my own attempts to articulate an idea and tease proof out of the texts and supporting materials and rolling my eyes at the lameness on display.
More depressingly, though, I realized that I’d be hard pressed to try to analyze something now. It’s a skill that it’s definitely lost if not used. Critical thinking muscles have to be exercised or else they lose strength. (And I will refrain from extrapolating that statement into a lecture about broader society and the shocking lack of critical thinking on display on any given news program. The Playfriends are pretty sick of that lecture, too.)
I feel like I’m getting a little dumber every day. Of course, as AC approaches her tweens and teens, my IQ drops about three points a day in her eyes, so that doesn’t help, either.
So, good little geek that I am, I’ve decided to start exercising those critical thinking skills again. I contacted a few friends that I went to graduate school with and started an “English Major Book Club.” We’re all such nerds, we’re excited about a book club that will basically recreate that school experience – only with wine and snacks this time. And no papers to write.
I’ve always obsessed over improving my body – my weight, muscle tone, etc – but now I’ve tempered that some with the idea I shouldn’t ignore my mind. Just as I need to work different muscle groups, I need to work different parts of my brain as well. This year, I’m going to start tapping back into a part of my brain I just forgot how to use.
So thank you, Jenny Crusie. I’m a big fan, and I love you. But I hate you just a little as well. I fully admit that hate is totally fueled by jealousy for your amazingly big brain that writes awesome books and remains sharply critical and analytical. But thanks for the push. You’re welcome at our nerdy little book club anytime.
Hopefully, life will get a lot more interesting.
So, here’s a question. Have you lost a skill you used to have? (My ability to do a triple pirouette without busting my butt also jumps to mind…) Is it something you’d like to get back? Have you ever tried to?