As I believe I have made clear before, I was a hyperlexic child. That is, my command of the English level was not merely years but almost a whole decade ahead of where it should be, and remained such until mid to late adolescence, when others began to finally catch up.
So I am sure it probably comes as a great surprise to some when I say that I do not enjoy reading. In fact, if the writer’s prose is especially dreadful, long-winded, or otherwise tiring, I may not even finish one of their works. A good example of this would be Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld series. The series itself, up to a point, is one of the most amusing and readable fantasy canons I have bit into. Especially invigorating is that Pratchett is able to write Dwarf humour without completely losing the point of what Dwarrow are. They are riotously funny in Pratchett‘s world, but they are also true to form. A Dwarf explaining to a Human that their drinking songs usually consist of “gold, gold, gold, gold” et cetera ad nauseum is a lot funnier when the Dwarf in question is otherwise the grim and sober type that Dwarvish adult males almost invariably are. (Take note of this, a certain asshole out there.)
But a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman entitled Good Omens. Let me put it this way. It took me nearly a year to finish reading it, and I hated every second of reading it. Neil Gaiman is clearly one of those names where people will just print whatever crap he puts on paper and expect people to buy it, because I have yet to encounter anything he has touched where it would not have been immeasurably better if he had let it be.
Presently, I am still working my way through the fiction work of George Orwell. Orwell‘s works are almost invariably sad, having something unpleasant to say about the nature of the Human animal. But what I have found with only two exceptions is that they are painfully slow to start. They take their sweet time to edge up to some sort of point that, once it is delivered, smacks a smart reader in the face like a flying brick.
The truth is, nobody walks away from their schooling unchanged. Abilities that might have been thought impossible as a little boy sometimes get turned into a great skill. Abilities that might come naturally become annoying, boring, and even upsetting. If you are reading this now and are exceptionally naïve, then let me enlighten you a little about the formal education system of the Western World. It is not designed to teach one to think. It is designed to hack away at one’s spectrum of available thought until one is only able to think in a line that is wanted.
We do not stay true to our dreams because of how we are taught. We stay true to our dreams in spite of it.
And math teachers, eager to push their students’ faces into a pile of numerical shit, will always tell us that math is the language of the universe. Again, so what? Granting that point, mathematics does not make the Human animal unique. Any shit-throwing monkey can pile up enough stones or pieces of shit to count to a thousand and work out how much is in any number of piles. But only Human languages can adequately describe how the shit smells, looks, and how rotten it appears to be.
In a real-life conversation I had today (yes, I do have those), I told a real-life friend (yes, I have those too) about the difference between chat channels in World Of Warcraft and most free online games. Sometimes, I will go into the general chat in World Of Warcraft and casually inform others in the channel that, for example, I drink shampoo. On free online games, I am clearly talking to a lot of mathematicians, because the statement goes largely unnoticed.
On certain channels in World Of Warcraft, this starts a whole conversation. Exchanges might form along the lines of how bubbly one shampoo is compared to another, whether two-in-one shampoos are preferable to separates, or vice versa, whether following a shampoo with a conditioner is a good idea, and what brands give the best results. Note that in this entire conversation, not one mathematical result is sought or given.
Can I say this any more plainly, teachers past? I know that some of you are still out there, hiding under rocks like the vermin that you are. Your attempts to shove things into my brain have only succeeded in making me averse to them, and retarding my growth in what you consider to be essential skills.
Abstraction is also one of the greatest ways to cut a zealot down to size. As one author described it, Cartesian thinking is the last refuge of a dumbass. You know the kind I mean, the kind that proclaims you believe in their god in spite of your protests to the contrary because you mention the word in some sort of context or manner that suits the occasion. What these idiots either conveniently forget or are too stupid to take as an absolute is that Humans are capable of thinking about things that do not exist.
And linguistics is, like it or not, the means by which we think of these things that do not exist. It is also the means by which we describe things that do not exist yet, but we want to make a reality at some point. Mobile telephones, LCD-based television sets, cameras, and portable navigation systems are just a few of many examples of things that would not exist today if not for the Human’s ability to think of and describe things that do not already exist.
I do not understand why, but when the material is not presented in a certain way, I find reading incredibly difficult. It is not necessarily the subject matter, either. Through the magic of the Internet, I have read numerous articles concerning subjects that I would find obnoxiously unreadable or unlistenable through other media.
The Internet presents us with an endless collection of some of the best writing available, and not just in the English language. But it is also chockers with some of the worst. Whether it is the formatting of the text, the prose, or the writers’ poor grasp of the language, sometimes it just is too much to bother with reading.
But the ability to construct an entire world with the letters, sounds, and words I can string together is a far preferable thing to have than the ability to sit and count elements in a world I had no hand in.