Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Scientist as Rebel

One of the books I'm reading right now is The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson. For those of you who have never heard of him, he's a very interesting guy. He's a physicist and a mathmetician, and he talks a lot about political, economic, and social issues. Neat guy!

Anyway, I finally got around to reading it and I was so pleased to see the first two words of the preface: "Benajmin Franklin". Ah! My heart sang! And he really captures why Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite people.

Anyway, jsut reading the preface lifted me and helped me realize that I need to stop doing things that I don't love. I don't mean I should not change poopy diapers or anything, but I realized I was doing things that I "thought I should do" that we not making my life any better.

One example is just that I have a mailing list I'm on. I originally joined it so that I could have pleasant conversation with people in the same field I'm in. The problem is that in the 8 years since then, a lot of us have changed jobs a bit. And, mostly, the list has just because a giant raging political argument. I admit that I fanned the flames from time to time, so I'm just as guilty. But as I was reading about Franklin, I realized I had diverged from where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be.

I remember reading about Franklin's ideas for discussing thins that people disagreed on. And he always stresses remaining calm, and non offensive, and always phrasing your points in a very soft way. You say "Well, I think, perhaps, that..." and whatever. You dont just come out and say, "You're wrong. I'm right" or anything of hte sort. And I have been doing that.

I know why I have. I have always lived in a little cocoon where I hide away my true self. I apparently have a huge fear of rejection -- not surprising after being ostracized in school. Always on the edge. But when I had my children, I changed. I think a lot of it was the hormones and the crankiness. I just didn't have hte time or patience to pretend I was a happy nice person who had a timid opinion. Partly it was the project I was on, where I had to fight a lot to keep us on task. And partly, it was all part of my journey to find myself again -- which eventually led to my decision to homeschool.

But I think I went too far. I kept swinging that metaphorical pendulum of my personality too far to being outspoken and confrontational. And after thinking about my buddy Ben, and reading about him through Dyson's eyes, I realized I want want to be that confrontational person.

So I dropped off the list. I need to do productive things that make me happy. Not argue with people I wish would be friends or aqiuaintances, just because I think that's what I'm supposed to want.

And now I need to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. And be a rebel.