the Gregorian calendar year

I’m ready
I’m ready for the laughing gas…
I’m ready to duck
I’m ready to dive
I’m ready to say
I’m glad to be alive

U2 (1991)

In calendar year 2010 I was fortunate to have read books which made me reconsider my thought process and viewpoints, and to have visited a number of locations around this earth, which if nothing else will boost the credibility with which I give commentary on worldwide events.  I like that you need nothing except time and a book to produce the act of reading.  I have read on airplanes, riding the subway, outdoors in the park, alone in my room, during lunch break, in the library, at the bookseller, in coffeeshops, and in a pub.  To travel you need time and money, and the rest of your life — whose continuity you intend to interrupt — needs either to be in order, or at a transition point where you can stretch the time.  I’m thankful for the luxury.  Maybe some out there enjoy transcendental experiences upon a change of the location variable, but for my own part, I found a more-or-less pleasing mix of events ranging from the expected — cuisine, social idiosyncrasies, the physical geography — to the unexpected (or unanticipated), including new social scenarios and the rapid crumbling of working relationships, and theft.  There were moments which I wanted to expand into years and inhabit, moments which felt like crises — looking back, there is a continuum of grace with which I evaluate I handled these — and ones that passed at just the right speed.

Some conversations ring in my head.  I remember sitting at a restaurant late at night with a friend who confided in me.  We sat — after finishing our food — and as the man wiped the tabletops — and thought.  Just before spring holiday, I had a talk with my macroeconomics professor, who was Greek.  He was going to fly out home over break, and as we talked about his worries over the euro, and Greek politics — I stopped thinking about “the Greece crisis” or “the Irish bank crisis” the same way.  There was the very entertaining conversation with an itinerant student whom I failed to convince of the existence of truth.  And that’s all before May.  It could just be a psychological trick where the most recent memories enjoy greatest gravity — but the trend this year of uncommonly memorable conversations seemed to continue in Peru and, of all places, in Iowa.

A genre which, perhaps undeservedly, enjoys a certain monopoly over my imagination in recent days is magical realism.  Some of this is because of the Rorschach of events which have passed (in particular, their relative novelness).  But in a different sense, magical realism (or more precisely, its converse) seems to smoothly graft itself to a synthesis of operational philosophy — the assignment of dramatic meaning to real objects and events is a useful artifice — just as the state characteristics of the Gregorian calendar artificially yet meaningfully organize our reflections and goals.  As any free human will tell you, one of the most pleasing things is the successful manipulation of your life, and yourself, to achieve your goals — whether the intent is to master a musical instrument, secure a job, get a date with that girl, or simply — to earn a living.  The significance of these events, in the face of chance and the dynamic world, may not make it into a research thesis — but it will form the backbones of novels and reality.

To maintain a given percentage rate of growth, you’ve got to discover more things every year… [but] what it looks like is, as we learn more, it becomes easier to discover new things.  In other words, knowledge builds on itself.

— Paul Romer


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