The last two years have been a hell of a rollercoaster, and the Ride clearly continues. So:
How am I a different person than before COVID? How am I unchanged?
And what might one look at to find answers to those questions?
Pretty much every year I've used Yesvember (the week between Christmas and New Years, a time-out-of-time) to do some sort of summary of present-state and assessment of what's emerged since the year before, and I'm in the midst of that now, greatly enjoying the process of stretching it to cover two extra-ordinary years.
I'll probably post some of my own findings on this page, and let you know when updated.
You know what a polymath is, I reckon: someone who knows a lot of things. That's from /polu-/ (normally rendered as poly-) 'many, much' plus /math&emacron;/ 'learning' (and yes, that's related to the math in mathematics). I imagine you're also familiar with peri-, as in perimeter, periscope, periphrastic, and peripatetic. That's from /peri/ 'about, around'. So, yes, perimath means someone who knows about things — you could say they know details peripheral to the things. (And a person who knows about a lot of things could be called a polyperimath.)
That might not sound like a good kind of thing to be. But believe me, there's a lot to be said for knowing about things — knowing that information exists, and knowing where and how to get that information. Very few people will remember everything exactly as they read or learned it, and the amount of information available will be forever greater than any one person's capacity for learning it all. But if you see some reference to a fact, and you can remember where and how to find out the details — if your mind is not an encyclopedia but a catalogue or search engine for a whole library — you can be very intellectually effective indeed.
As usual, it seems that I've contrived another almost bottomless Rabbit Hole to investigate: the Yesvember stocktaking has inspired creation of lists of books and texts and musics and video, for my own purposes, and you're welcome to ignore the links below... I'm inclined to rewrite my own question a bit, to ask how my life is different after two years of COVID. There are two major differences:
It's a bit sobering to note that I'm now within a few months of my father's age when he died (brother John got to 81, Alice to 85, David to 75). Here's what I'm working toward:
Some things haven't changed in the two years, except to intensify: I read more, and more widely (the list of books below documents that activity), and write more too, mostly on yellow pads and in html texts that live at oook.info. There's been a lot of photography (see the spread of Flickr albums and the Joint Show with Betsy in September 2020) since the completion of my 12th Blurb book (in January 2020). And on the musical front, several new instruments (some of them documented here). The blog continues somewhat fitfully.
As for "what might one look at to find answers": my /answer/ to that takes me back into my archives of written and read material, which I've been wandering through and trying to summarize via lists and other mappings of terrain. The chronology is captured in scrawled yellow pads, my [incomplete] log of Convivium notes, blog posts, snippets of text copied into txt files, and piles of realia, books especially. These are my own baby hippopotamuses (...only a mother could love...), and a personal joy to re-encounter and review, but not perhaps of interest to all of Rabbit's friends and relations. Overkill, where is thy sting?
It occurred to me to try to identify the most influential books I've read in these last two years, and here's what I've come up with:
Underland: A Deep Time Journey Robert MacFarlane (led me to the Walter Benjamin Arcades project of January 2020)It's surprising to look through the vastness of the (mostly-Amazon) book purchases in chronological order, and so explore the twists and turns of my evolving interests. Here's the full list: books bought, 2020 and 2021. A next task is to group them by subject matter.
Hyperobjects Timothy Morton (took a while for 'hyperobjects' to sink in, now I see them everywhere)
Figuring Maria Popova (simply brilliant writing)
The Great Derangement Amitav Ghosh (an Indian Ocean take on climate change)
The Nutmeg's Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis Amitav Ghosh (World-Systems reawakened)
World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction Immanuel Wallerstein (grand-scale history, the paradigm summarized)
Empire of Cotton: A Global History Sven Birkets
A Biography of the Pixel Alvy Ray Smith 14ix21
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures Merlin Sheldrake 11v20
The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California Mark Arax
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest Suzanne Simard
Unflattening Nick Sousanis
Seeing with Fresh Eyes: Meaning, Space, Data, Truth Edward Tufte
In the process of cleaning up the desktop and the several drives attached to the iMac, I gathered up the mountain of textfiles I've created during the two years, but I haven't done anything more so far than to put them into chronological order. The list would be useful if sorted by subject matter, and if the rather enigmatic filenames were annotated. That's probably not really worth doing, but it's interesting to see the volume of what I've collected as TextEdit .txt files