The list of things I’ll never understand is a long one. I’ll never quite get why the sky is blue and not some other color, how eyeballs work, or what on earth a black hole is. And don’t even get me started on things like trickle-down economics, parallel universes, the theory of relativity, or that giant atom smasher thing in Switzerland. Physics? You can’t be serious.
My brain isn’t wired for technology, finance, or business. Simple math? Yes. I can balance my checkbook, calculate percentages in my head, and discern the best price of any product in the grocery store. Anything more complicated . . . not so much. During my freshman year at college, I had to drop out of calculus after two long, frustrating weeks because I knew that no amount of reading, studying, or memorizing would have any effect on my ability to understand it. Required to choose either another math class or a science class, I switched to biology, which I actually did well in, only because I could apply its concepts to real life without too much of a stretch. In addition, I remember exactly nothing from the one economics class I took except that there’s something called microeconomics and something else called macroeconomics. ’Nuff said.
Let’s add politics to that list, just for good measure. I find the maneuverings and alliances and grievances between and among different peoples in the world mind-boggling. And it all seems to change almost daily. There’s no keeping up with it.
Fortunately, there are things I do get. Every day, I successfully assemble words into sentences into paragraphs into essays because grammar and punctuation and semantics are my thing. Working as an editorial assistant at a small book press forced me to surrender to The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam and Webster and let them teach me everything they knew. I learned more from them in a few short years than I did in all my sixteen years of formal schooling.
Art and architecture fascinate me, mostly because they have little to do with intellect and everything to do with our creativity and right-braininess and uniqueness. I’m intrigued by how certain colors just seem to peacefully coexist. My favorite artists were the Impressionists, those nomadic and often-penniless mavericks who defied convention and challenged the status quo. No one paints like that anymore. Similarly, I love old houses filled with quirky elements from another time and place: French doors and pocket doors, butler’s pantries, grand staircases and servants’ staircases, built-in china cabinets, crown molding, transoms, stained glass, foyers, turrets, and wraparound porches. Architecture is art on a grander scale.
History holds me spellbound, especially the years from 1880 to 1945. The Victorians with their calling cards and dance cards and strict etiquette, elegant balls, classical music, and curious courting habits. The Roaring Twenties: full of decadence, the Steins’ salon in Paris, new kinds of art and writing. The 1930s and 1940s: the lean years, the war years, men in suits, women in dresses and hats and brooches, some of the best classic movies ever made. After that, we ushered in the Atomic Age, and nothing was quite the same again.
I’m also a student of psychology, especially the abnormal kind. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring people out. Let’s face it: We’re all dysfunctional to some degree because we’re all human and fallible. It’s so much easier to get along with others and accept and forgive them when you understand the whys and wherefores of their often-baffling behavior (especially when they’re your teenage sons).
No one is an expert in everything. Each of us is a unique recipe of gifts and talents and interests that’s never duplicated. I don’t need to know everything, and that’s all I need to know.