Making Space in My Brain

On the Wednesday, after election Tuesday, I took a decisive step.  My mental health was in jeopardy.  I would fight to eliminate a habit – a preoccupying, distracting, futile fifty year old habit.

My students tell me that I have never grown up.  I guess not. Childlike,I am still trying to make sense of my world.  I read about economics to understand how money makes the world go round.  I built a my own house and others and gained a sense of the physical world and how things are put together.  I read chemistry to understand what makes matter matter.  I read about cosmology and quantum science  to understand my place in the universe.  I obsessively read about politics and government to understand how people work together to thrive, or not.  This last, no more.

NPR news will no longer wake me in the morning or play in the background as I eat breakfast or wash the dishes.  Books on tape and silence will reign in my Camry.  I will scan headlines but read no further.  The opinion page will be skipped.  I will resist to the best of my capacity political discussions with friends and strangers alike.  I have suffered through too many dysfunctional wrong-headed presidencies.  I must fight my way out of this depressive obsession with politics.

This effort will (has) created space in my brain that I need to fill with non-political thoughts. The saying goes “The devil makes work for idle hands.”  It is also true that “the devil makes work for idle minds.”  I need new things to think about.

So I am memorizing lines to a play.  I am being very intentional about thinking about the next day’s lectures as I go to bed.  I am learning a new (for me) way of doing statistics and plan to do all the R exercises in the amazing, Rethinking Statistics by Richard McElreath.  I am ordering more math books to read.  I am studying more Go games and reading more about playing bridge.  I already feel freer.

The last stanza of The Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit seems appropriate to the times. But I will feed my head not with LSD but by learning and using new ideas, by disciplining my thinking, and as always taking care of the ones I love.


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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