Friday, August 20, 2010

ANYTHING-CAN-HAPPEN THURSDAY...even more unexpected on Friday

From the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, exploding star V838 moncerotis.

Once my brother joined the gang suggesting that I'd enjoy the CBS comedy, The Big Bang Theory, I began watching and they were right. For those who don't know, the premise involves four very bright young scientists whose geeky leanings add to their appeal. Anything-Can-Happen Thursday is an event referred to in the show. Today's post is a small and quiet shout out to the smart men who are and have been in my life and to all smart men (we'll get to the women another day) everywhere.

My formal education goes no farther than high school. In a state of bewilderment I showed up for junior college, briefly, but other than learning to resist the deconstruction of poetry by W. B. Yeats and surviving the Cuban Missile Crisis, I'm not sure I retain much. Oh, there was a geology class in which we heard a taped lecture by Hungarian-American nuclear physicist, Edward Teller, on, among other things, the extent of the universe. One of his well-known quotes, on another topic of which he had knowledge, is, "Secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction." Smart man.

Yesterday, a word close to my heart - autodidact - came up in conversation and I was reminded of the birthday or Christmas when my last long-term boss at my last real job gave me a copy of The Day I Became An Autodidact by Kendall Hailey. Mr. F. is one of the smart, perhaps smartest, men I am fortunate to count as a friend. His wisdom results from, I would say, a superior mind, significant academic achievements, considerable professional abilities and the gift of insight. To have my self-taught ways acknowledged by someone whom I consider a giant was the greatest affirmation I could want. With his equally-amazing wife and children, I believe they could run the world.

Sons - my own and those of women I know who are not confused about the extent of their blessing - are on my smart men list. For senses of humor, inquiring minds, vision that reaches far beyond seeing, talent, awareness of who they are, kindness and generous hearts, the ability to set boundaries, encyclopedic knowledge of greater and lesser matters and the people behind them, continual growth in mind and spirit, and having survived events in their younger years that looked iffy at times, they are among my heroes.

My brother, before he set our to seek his fortune in a distant land at 19, was already smart, musically and artistically gifted and knew his way around sports cars. Who he has become over the last 40-some years is my closest confidant, champion of my essential self and my work, teacher, composer and a man whose appetite for the real story of who we are, and why, and his ceaseless exploration of life's mysteries, are all the proof anyone might need that some of us get even smarter as we get older.

I count among smart men some whom I have recently met through blogging; thoughtful, questioning, supportive of others in the blog world, self-deprecating, creative, alert and not likely to be bamboozled. Their honest writings and willingness to be seen by strangers model courage for me, openness. I have no sense from them that the first thing they seek in a room is the exit, that keeping themselves guarded and hidden is not how they interpret their purpose on earth. I have had such friends in the actual, 3-D world; sadly, they are gone. I am grateful for these new encounters.

To call anyone, for instance President Obama, an intellectual and use the word as an insult is a tragic measure of how far we have drifted from center. If smart is not one of the values we demand from elected officials, well...we could end up with any old thing. I think I know how this turns out.


Robert the Skeptic said...

"autodidact" - new to my vocabulary! I learn something new every day.

My documentary was about a man with only a high school diploma but considered a genius by many with PhD following their names.

On the other end of the scale, George W. Bush went to both Harvard and Yale.

One of my favorite quotations is attributed to Sherlock Holmes (through Conan Doyle, of course): "Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius."

Sultan said...

One loves the Big Bang Theory tv show.

Good post.

RachelVB said...

In response to the photo: it's amazing the beautiful things in our universe we can only see when we step waaaaaay way back.

Good men are important. They are comforting. I have a select few and they are big fuzzy sweatshirts.

Radish King said...

Smart son smart brother. Both brilliant really and talented. And funny. What a perfect combination. Thanks, ML!!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - Thank you, Robert, Sherlock and Sir Arthur...what a fine quote. And your man, from what I've read of him and your documentary, was a genius by any definition. Don't you love learning something new? Me too.

Laoch - Thank you...TBBT also has the benefit of being set in my home town, Pasadena and it may spark a run on Red Vines, one of the best candies ever.

Rachel - And those same men, good and smart, figured out a way for us to see things from a long way off. I hope the good men know who they are and why they are such treasures.

Rebecca - How fortunate we are, we who need not look far for what is best among us. :-)

Erin in Morro Bay said...

My father who left school after 8th grade to help support his family during the depression - one of the smartest men I've ever known. Could build anything, kept all our cars running, an excellent chef, earned his living as an electrician.
And my dear, dear brother, who left us in 2001 after a long bout with cancer - a PhD in theoretical physics and on the team that designed the first computer chip.

Two different kinds of "smart" but very much the same kind of love and wonderfulness.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Your father and both my grandfathers have similar stories; one who could fix anything, grow anything, and the other who left school about age 9 to help support his family, eventually put himself through law school after being a hero in WWI...and your brother...maybe they are different kinds of smart, maybe not. Maybe there is really only one. This post and the comments have made me happy. I love learning how we share the gift of such men in our lives.

Sultan said...

Pasadena is a beautiful place. I was stunned at how nice it was when I was there a couple of years ago.

Claire Beynon said...

This is a beautiful post, Marylinn --- every word of it. I am especially moved by the way you write about sons (what blessings they are!), introduce us to your brother and acknowledge your rich relationship with him; and, too, the way you write of the men you/we encounter here in the blog community. Gifts, all.

Thank you. Once again, you have given shape to things I - we - think about and don't always know how to say.
L, C

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - Thank you. The post did start with the one word which transported me to the moment I learned it and in whose company. It is my joy to give these thoughts form and to have such responses.

Anonymous said...

how lucky you are to have such a close
connection to your brother..

life is indeed rich.