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I sometimes think that the worst case scenario for me would be if I lost my ability to think about things. I truly enjoy thinking and am curious about all sorts of things and I would hate not being able to do it very well. Now and then I find myself having little lapses in memory and I feel a kind of strange, breathless panic, something like what you feel if you are deeply asleep and dreaming and are suddenly awakened and briefly experience a sense of disorientation. It doesn't last long, but I don't like how it feels. My initial reaction is a fear that I am slipping into some kind of early onset dementia or something. It is classic overreaction, of course, usually I'm just slipping into general idiocy, which can happen at any age and usually does. It is uncomfortable, but not as alarming as the thought of taking a one-way boat up the river to la-la land. I comfort myself with the realization that I have been a little bit spacey most of my life, particularly when I am faced with some ridiculously tedious task from which I escape by thinking about something far more interesting and completely unrelated. I am a very good multi-tasker, both physically and mentally. The problem is, I often am so absorbed in what I am thinking that, while I can continue to function physically with no ill effect, I sometimes detach so thoroughly mentally that I miss things going on around me. This is not a good way to be if you are working with dangerous machinery or nuclear missiles or something. Fortunately, no one has ever asked me to watch their nuclear bombs for them.
When I was in high school it was necessary for me to walk across an open field outside the school to get home. I did this every day and it wasn't a terribly interesting stroll so I used to do it while thinking about something I found particularly interesting at that moment. One day I was walking along, minding my own business and thinking about William Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar, when I realized that my name was being screamed at the top of someone's lungs. I broke my reverie and looked around for the source. It turned out that my best friend was bellowing my name because I was blithely walking through the middle of what was obviously some kind of huge confrontation, with the opposing factions lined up about 20 yards away from me on either side of my oblivious stroll home. It turned out that there were people on both sides who were rather fond of me and nobody was particularly anxious to get me killed in the crossfire so the entire business had come to a halt while I trotted through the middle of it. I believe that everyone was so amused by my performance that they forgot what they were fighting about and went home instead. It was an experience in unintended diplomacy due to abject stupidity.
One time I was in the grocery store doing my weekly shopping, a task I detest, when I suddenly realized that my brother and sister-in-law were directly behind me in the check-out line, laughing at me. My brother asked me what I was thinking about, but I was so embarrassed that I never responded. The sad truth of the matter is that I was thinking about Quantum mechanics, a bit of madness made even more hysterical by the fact that I am barely able to wrap my tiny, little mind around the subject without my brains starting to leak out of my eye sockets. For someone who loves to think, I lack the kind of mind capable of cogitating brilliantly on math and science, a fact that has always caused me a kind of pained distress given that I find both subjects totally fascinating. Let's face it, a wombat might find a radio kind of interesting, but don't hold your breath expecting him to ever figure out how it works of how to operate one.
The fact that I find math and science so utterly fascinating while simultaneously suffering from mental challenges in that regard has always felt like a kind of tragedy to me and has caused me to spend a lot of time pursuing knowledge in those fields like a stubborn rat terrier. It's kind of pathetic, really. While my desire and determination have given me a better than average knowledge and understanding of basic concepts, I will never be able to understand them on the level I would like – I just don't have what it takes. I keep trying to train my brain to work better, but while my right brain is lively enough, but my left brain takes a lot of naps.
My brother once told me that I am too hard on myself. He maintains that most people heating up their canned beans on a regular basis in their microwaves have not a single clue how the thing works. I do, because I got curious and looked it up, and I'm here to tell you, it's a little frightening.
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