…of An Autodidact
Books. I was one of those kids. For me, it was all about books.
Growing up, the most magical place in the world to me was the Public Library. I pored over the shelves of aging volumes like a kid in a candy shop, wondering what magical ideas I would discover within. Whenever I went there, I would plop myself down in a corner and stay there for hours (or what seemed like hours to an eight year-old).
It seemed that I always had a stack of books with me. One stacks would come into the library with me and still another would leave come home with me.
I was a meticulous child. I would choose a subject (pirates, dinosaurs) or as I got older, an author or period (John Grisham, late 19th century British fiction), and into that topic I would dive, immersing myself until the topic was thoroughly exhausted.
The Internet changed all that.
Here was a method of filling myself up on information without that most pesky of adult conveniences: a car. I could simply type my question into a search engine (Yahoo, Altavista, etc.) and discover a universe of information on the other end of that 14.4kbps connection.
Needless to say, this fundamentally altered my world. What had been my hobby was now my obsession and for the first time in my life, I found it possible to actively pursue all the crazy ideas that ran through my head.
You see, more than anything else, I absorb. That is the verb that best describes what I do. Many people who know me would suggest “think” or “create” and I do engage in both, but my “processing” and my “output” are both far surpassed by my rate of “input.” It has taken me decades to understand this fully, but I learn in ways that most other people do not. When I read trashy magazines, I learn. When I watch prime time television, I learn. When I surf the web and fill my mind with all the craziness out there, I learn.
To be sure, there are other people who are capable of absorbing usable knowledge out of everything from Grey’s Anatomy to Vogue Magazine, but I have found that overwhelmingly, most people just don’t.
Which brings me to why we are here.
Today, the web allows those of us for whom learning is a primary function of our being to do so constantly. It allows us to skip happily from blog post to newspaper article to Wikipedia and back again, in search for a deeper understanding of a particular issue or idea. It also allows for a tremendous breadth of learning—one can absorb an enormous volume of material on the web today in a relatively short period of time. However, with so much information out there, so many opportunities to learn, many if not most people are daunted enough to stay away completely. They read the same magazines they have always read and watch the same TV shows they have always watched and are rarely,if ever, exposed to much of anything that may fall outside of those boundaries.
It is for these people that I am starting this site. For me, a major part of the excitement of discovering new things is sharing them with the people you care about. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel here and I don’t intend, at least at first, to be writing or linking to anything that the most internet/tech savvy people out there would not have already seen/read. I am really writing this for everybody else, who would not otherwise read a post by Andrew Sullivan if I did not email it, or listen to a song by The Decemberists unless I sent it, or watch a piece of history on YouTube unless I showed it.
Wish me luck and let me know what you think.