(Image of the Carina Nebula – Wikicommons)
I'm the first to admit it. I'm a nerd. A dreamy nerd, but a nerd.
Have been, on and off, right through my life. Now in my sixties I'm more adept at reading social cues than I used to be, and have learned to temper the hard angles of my nerdishness, but looking back at the nerdish boy-man of yesteryear I see a pattern.
As a boy I liked to read much more than to play sport. Still do, but that's more of a physical imperative now, with aches and pains and such. I lived in my mind then, designing intricate palaces, imagining great adventures in this world and out of it. I would spend hours inventing board games and playing them by myself. When encyclopedias were books, I revered them, leafing through and vacuuming up information about everything and nothing.
As I said, I was a little different . . . to say the least. A nerd.
Gadgets fascinated me; not so much fixing them, but using and understanding them. I was pretty much clueless when it came to repairs. The only workshop I felt comfortable in, was the one inside my mind.
And then I discovered astronomy. With a school friend who shared my passion, we would spend nights in the back yard gazing through small telescopes, entranced by what we saw and developing an encyclopedic knowledge of the night sky.
Yeah, I know . . . risk takers we were . . . adventurers. When other young teen males were dreaming of their sporting heroes, pop music, cars they would like to own, or girls, our dreams were extraterrestrial.
Astronomy was the first of a series of interests to grab me and inspire me to dream. As it turned out my mathematics scores did not let me realise my dreams of becoming an astronomer, and in hindsight that was no bad thing. You see, although I didn't know it, I was barking up the wrong tree as they say. Along with the wonder and physical beauty of the universe, which I love to this day, I had absorbed a trusting belief that the answer to my dreams was out there somewhere waiting for me to discover it. Sort of like Douglas Adams' boffins in his book “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” when they asked the great god-like super computer for the answer to 'life, the universe and everything'. The answer they got was 42.
Just as I did eventually, those boffins walked away glumly, disillusioned, except it took me a good few years, a physics degree, wrong turns and blind alleys to realise I'd been sold a pup. Ever slow to see the really important things in life, it was only in the fullness of years that I began to appreciate that although there might be exciting dreams aplenty in science and technology, my dreams were now to be found in an entirely different direction.
Mind you, I admit I remain prone to bouts of nerdish indulgence. I'm more excited about the latest toy drone I'm flying in the lounge room than is my grandson who has just received it as a birthday present. I'm interested in reference material of all types: Data tables of vehicle performance; Google Maps; Google Earth; optical devices; wiring diagrams of all types. These are but a few of my remaining guilty pleasures. Furthermore I read books on byzantine history, political analysis, German and Italian language learning, and I am learning to play classical guitar. There, I've said it! What a weight off my conscience. Us nerds carry a lot of guilt about being different.
But, where was I? Yes, my dreams. Nerds have them no less than most people, you know.
I used to dream about gadgets. It seems to me that gadgets are gadgets, and as fascinating and addictive as they may be, they remain gadgets. Computers, wireless devices, CAT scanners, GPS modules, hadron colliders, telescopes. Some of them produce data and information. Some of that is meaningful to me. None of it is the stuff of my dreams now.
Which begs the question: What does a nerdish old man dream?
My old school friend reminded me this morning via email of our shared interest in astronomy as boys and it inspired me to write this blog entry. Not surprisingly, my dreams have evolved along with me in the decades since those evenings in the back yard with a telescope. Dreams of what I would do with my life are no longer relevant. Such dreams have been rendered obsolete by the passage of time. I know what I am doing with my life now, and I am content.
Possibilities of meeting alien life forms or communicating with them via sophisticated gadgetry no longer seem quite so likely. The answer may be out there somewhere, but I didn't ever find it, and my questions, and dreams, are different now.
Now I dream of being accepted and valued for who I am: an old guy with nerdy tendencies, some of which he has learned to temper.
I dream of letting go of self importance and of embracing humility.
I dream of letting go of the need to know and to be in control.
I dream my wife, children and grandchildren will know I love them unreservedly.
I dream of being a good and true friend.
I dream of bringing smiles to people who need them.
I dream of being as one with my creator.
(Image of the Crab Nebula – Wikicommons)
So, the dreams change, bringing with them different questions that have different answers.
I guess life is about people, not gadgets. If you knew that all along, why didn't you sit me down and explain it to me when I was young?
(Image – Wikicommons)
In a life of dreams, I have indeed been a slow learner.