Friday, January 25, 2008

Spring Semester: 2 weeks down, 15 to go

Getting my first beating with the CHEM stick in 15 years. I hate hate hate the nomenclature memorization aspects of chemistry. An endless series of rules about arbitrary naming conventions from forever ago that all get mixed into each other, changing the "right answer" along the way, a total nightmare for people like me who hate trivia.

I like concepts and ideas. I hate rote memorization.

And don't get me started on the &$*!!$!~ing exceptions to the rules. Our teacher stands up front drilling us with stuff we need to memorize, saying "and remember, this becomes this and that becomes that because of this rule and that rule. BUT - not in this case. In this case, it's this. Why? Because it is." And then he laughs. And I fume. Only decades of social conditioning keep me quiet and in my chair.

This is where I HATE academia, and one of the reasons I dropped out so long ago. I hate the rote memorization of something because someone said so. I hate redundant systems of communication that should be reduced to a singular, comprehensive vocabulary. But NO: multiple messy systems are maintained and taught to students for no damn reason, forever.

I have no idea why elementary kids are taught to write in cursive. Who writes in cursive? And THOSE people should stop, because we can't freaking read what you're writing! If the whole point of you writing something is for me to read it, then make it easy to read! Print! Type!

If you're an artist, do whatever the hell you want. If you want to learn some archaic system, go for it! But if your goal is to communicate something from you to someone else, then do it clearly with a concise system of communication, or don't do it at all. And certainly don't force generations of students to suffer through your failing to throw off the shackles of historical obfuscation.

I'll try to stop ranting now.

I like the fact that I have (at least partially) changed my life focus from pleasing The Man With The Money by doing whatever the hell He wants to trying to understand the fundamental principals of the universe and how the thing works. If I can contribute new, absolute knowledge (in some tiny way) to mankind, then I'll feel like I did something with my life.

I hope hope hope (pray?) that life does, in fact, work the way my mind does. I hope to discover order and beauty buried in the mountains of data only someone with big computers and skills like mine can sort through.

I hope I can mine knowledge from the crush of information mankind has just recently learned to glimpse inside the machinery of all life.

Surely if I cannot find patterns in the mess it is because I am not looking correctly. Not because life itself is a masochistic chemistry professor, laughing me into my grave.

(How's that for existential bullshit? -laugh-)

1 comment:

BrotherBemused said...

Hey, you know I LIKE that existential BS. It fertilizes the soul. : ) I share you frustration with rote and routine. Who cares? That part of academia is, it seems to me, truly unreal, i.e. not in keeping with reality. I was reading something today that said something similar, contrasting schedules (the rote approach) with what he called "rituals" (more the way I think the world actually is). "Schedules," he said,"are wooden, inflexible, static, impersonal. Rituals are elastic, spacious, dynamic, and participatory....A ritual is capable of infinite variations and adaptations--the proportions and movement of the thing, the relationships, the encounters, the rhythmns." The author was describing an approach to life that is fluid rather than rigid. I empathize with your effort trying to fit your restless spirit into the the rigid formulas of chemistry.