I am a very strange individual. Admittedly so. And ever since I've gone gray, I have compiled so much evidence to support this statement that I have come to believe that weirdness has something to do with hair color and maybe a little bit with aging.
I have retired from teaching after thirty-one years and have now become slavishly devoted to the belief that it's way past time to start work on educating myself. By that, I mean that I have now taken on the challenge of reading the big books that most truly educated people are supposed to have read by now. I was far too lazy before and far too fond of Tolkien, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, and Larry McMurtry to dig to deeply into those thousand page tomes that used to cause my English teachers to blather on about for interminably long periods of time.
Now I feel kind of obligated to do this which I don't suppose is too strange in itself, but in typical fashion, I have taken it a step beyond the pale. I have started to take a book with me everywhere I go. Whatever it is that I am reading at the time is in the car with me wherever I travel. That way if there is a break in whatever I have to do, I am prepared to fulfill my duty.
I often eat alone and in lieu of conversation I'll whip (more like hoist) out my thumb marked copy War and Peace and read while I chew. Waiting in a doctor's office? Out comes The Brothers Karamazov. If I am eating breakfast in the morning, I'll read something from Nietzsche. I've found that you have to read him in the morning his writings being far too gloomy to read at night.
And while I usually seek out uninhabited restaurants, I would still label this habit a bit more sad than strange, even though I never feel sad when I do it, or lonely, for that matter. I feel more like I'm being driven by the insatiable desire to make-up for lost time. And that, I think, is something that I wouldn't have to explain to most people , at least those near my own age. I actually feel pretty good when I am wrestling with some big idea that I have never considered before.
The real strangeness started when I started reading the little volume Fear and Trembling written by Soren Kierkegaard. In it, the author makes a very convincing case that the story of Abraham and his son Isaac contains a lesson that everyone needs to take the time to learn. But I am not talking about the version of the story you heard in church when you were young.
Kierkegaard takes most of the preachers, ministers, and priests who have ever told the story to task for not truly understanding the meaning of the story while they spoke of the obvious stuff about Abraham's faith. He charges that they all were always too unwilling to dig deeply enough into the essence of the anguish involved in his decision to sacrifice his beloved son. It was a three day ride for Abraham to reach Mt. Moriah, and three days was awful lot of time to confront the deed that God demanded.
Since it was such a small volume, I began concealing it in my coat pocket and taking it with me wherever I went. I usually put in my back seat while I was driving, but after one particularly moving passage, I thought that I was being very disrespectful by putting the book in the back seat like it was some unruly child. "What's next?" I said to myself. "You gonna belt it up in a child's safety seat?"
After that, I placed it on the passenger seat and let it ride along side of me. The only time It goes back into the back seat is when I take my mother somewhere, and then I imagine that Kierkegaard would be happy because I had my priorities in order; homage to the lady who brought me into this world supersedes respect for an author I have just barely met.
Now, while I freely admit that this type of thinking is strange. I don't dispute that in the least. It does, however, bring a small smile to my face when I do it. It helps me to think that maybe, just maybe, I am beginning to finally get my outside eyes above the sixty year old rut I've carved into the ground around Corcoran ever since I left kindergarten. Maybe my imagination is starting to go back to the days when I used to believe that if I tied a towel around my neck and jumped off the blocks, I could fly.
Maybe I'll give that a try. I'll tie a big beach towel around my neck, gather a large crowd, and leap off the second floor of the Hotel Occidental.
Fuck that! I said I was strange not crazy.