Methods of reading…

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It is perhaps inevitable that I would study the medieval era and perhaps inevitable that I would go to grad school to study history.  I say this in observing how I read.  It appears that I have a rather medieval turn of mind which is seen in the analysis of my inquiries: my investigation invariably grows laterally as I gather authorities and auctores around me in my study.  The medieval literary mind would seek a greater synthesis of all materials than I do and would likely have a greater memory of their library stored in their brain matter than I do, but otherwise the similarity remains.

As I proceed into an inquiry, just as many other scholars do, I seem to assume the quintessential image of the professor working away between mountains of books.  Note, that  I said inquiry as opposed to research project, because it is not always the case that I am engaged in a serious research project when the near-obsessive, hound-like hunt begins.  I may have just read something that has simply made me curious, in an article or a novel.  I begin pulling books off the shelf and sniffing out the trail my synapses seem to have created.  Often, I think I would like these to develop into projects, but it happens so frequently that I cannot possibly live long enough to pursue every track to the prey.

I am a historian, a traveler, a writer and a lover of mysteries–though I define mysteries far more broadly than crime–and, as such, I currently have several book projects and possible articles collated and filed in my brain.  (I can only hope that my brain’s filing system is more finely tuned and calibrated than my office suggests.)  Journals, nearly a fetish of mine, are filled with notes, outlines, and text-pockets sewn together with arrows.  These are maps of the inquiry as it unfolds on my desk, literally reaching new heights, before I finally concede a need to get back to authorized assignments and official business.  Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to pursue these projects more thoroughly at some point, but simple math assures me that many will never come to fruition.

And, yet, there is little regret.  While I read more slowly than other folks with my background, training, and interests, I am quite at peace with the lively energy that accompanies even modest intellectual pursuits, including more than a few that were intended simply as pleasure.  The truth about texts is that they are forever talking to each other in ways that no one person can entirely grasp, even the authors.  So, my desire to join the conversation is, while rarely planned, as much part of the program of the textual world as it is inherent in my own composition.  Although, I admit it is sometimes difficult to turn off and can be nothing but a nuisance at one in the morning.

I have always had a reputation for being energetic, but the energy is not only a physical trait, it is a mental trait, as well.  Perhaps, it is less medieval and simply over-active.  Also, I concede I have found a powerful need to balance physical activity with intellectual activity throughout my personal history.  I suppose that is why I was able to earn my black belt two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule when I was an undergraduate, one semester before graduating with one major and two minors.  None of this is meant to brag or suggest I have a powerful intellect, because I have met people with powerful intellects and am well aware of my lacking.  In fact, some bright psychologist reading this may be just as inclined to diagnose me with ADHD!  (If so, I contend that I have developed some successful coping mechanisms.)

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