Intellectualism

Intellectualism by definition isn’t precisely what I’m getting at in this post, but it’s the sort of word you just want to mean what you’re talking about, you know? And it’s a better title than “Thoughts” or “A blog post”, so, whatever.

I have a few stories to tell, different observations through which one can determine the whole of the picture I am trying to paint. This picture, hopefully, won’t be worth too many words.*

Dio is a singer who creates music that can vary wildly in quality during a song. His albums are equally consistent, and his career presents a very hard to rate volume of work. His subject matter can be just as confusing. As far as religion goes, his songs would imply that he is some sort of Satanic traditional Catholic skeptic. On top of this, his cryptic sword-and-sorcery themes make you wonder if he’s even talking about religion at all. This is partially why I count him as one of my favorite artists, despite probably liking less than half of what he’s done–the general effect in my mind is that I’m just not good enough to like the other things he does. More than that, though, is that when he does strike a chord (heh) within me, he hits it hard.

The song “The Sign of the Southern Cross”, from the second album of Dio’s tenure with Black Sabbath, has been a big favorite of mine since I heard it. Not only is it a rad Black Sabbath song, it’s a rad Black Sabbath song with interesting lyrics, and has a verse with the rare trait in Dio’s music of being perfectly clear in meaning, at least to my mind:

“Reach above your dreams of pleasure,

give a life to those who died,

look beyond your own horizons,

sail the ship of sight.”

This describes my state of mind more than it does some direct moral, so it’s hard to describe. But, well… reach above your dreams of pleasure; never be limited by what you want. Give a life to those who died; don’t waste what all your ancestors have built for you by resting on your laurels. Look beyond your own horizons; don’t be beholden to what you know, think, or believe, and make your morals and knowledge part of the decision-making process, never the decision. Sail the ship of sight; always accept what can clearly be seen.

Like I said, those are just elements that make up a whole way of living. But that’s the first ‘story’ I wanted to tell.

Almost halfway through my freshman year of high school, my general science class had finished the basic physics the classed covered and moved on to slightly more detailed biology. It was still essentially the same things we learned every year before, with bigger words and more homework, but the teacher was pretty good and made it rather interesting and seemed to know what he was talking about. So I was rather excited to see that our next section was on evolution, a topic I wanted to actually hear something about other than the usual “grr it’s evil”/”grr it’s not evil”. I came in the next day alert and ready to learn. Class began, and the teacher said something to the effect of:

“We’re going to skip this next section on evolution, it’s complicated and…”

It was like getting punched directly in the brain. He just trailed off, never stating a reason for why we were skipping it, shaking his head noncommittally when asked about it, but the way he acted made it clear that it was getting skipped for being evolution. He didn’t even have enough respect for us to admit that he was dodging the topic so our parents wouldn’t get mad and sue.

I pretty much instantly lost all respect for him. I slept through his class every day for the rest of the year, except for a brief span where I pointedly read A Brief History of Time, as if to say, “Then I’ll just go ahead and learn about things without you.”

Third anecdote: thinking back to that incident a couple weeks ago led me to start looking around for books about evolution. Richard Dawkins was on The Colbert Report one night, promoting his book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, and that seemed like as good a starting point as any, so I ordered it from library.

My mom is a part-time librarian, and she usually brings books I order home to me. When she brought this one home she said she saw the cover before seeing what the book was, and was impressed at how pretty the cover was. Then she said it was, and I quote, a “shame the topic’s so controversial”.

She said “controversial” as if the word were a demerit, using an ‘I’m not touching that one’ tone of voice that sounded a little too much like the science teacher’s for my taste. This situation was worsened by the book’s cover. It’s black with reflective butterflies that shine in different colors depending on how the light hits them. It’s meant to depict the beauty that can exist in evolutionary biology, the sort of idea in Charles Darwin’s ending to his Origin of Species:

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

The cover evokes the ‘grandeur in this view of life’ by being, once you let yourself enjoy something as simplistic as shiny colors, really pretty.

But my mom saw the prettiness, then saw it was about evolution, and was disappointed. She’s entitled to her opinion about evolution, of course, especially since I’m still forming my own, but this confounds me. It’s the same with the science teacher. It’s not just stopping yourself from thinking about something, which is understandable– it’s like they specifically reached over and flicked off the switch on the light bulb of inspiration. It’s like she chose not to be intrigued.

When I’m intrigued by an idea, regardless of what morals I may have already wrapped around it, I’m going to look beyond my own horizons, sail the ship of sight, and find out more about it. What if my morals are misguided?

I know other people have a completely different mindset than me and will sometimes do things I find strange. This just bewilders me is all. What the hell do they do with their brains? Something else, I suppose. Like I said, it’s just that the idea is foreign to me. My only point here is a confused and flustered “Huh?!”

*It was worth 1175 words, according to Word Press. Yeah. When we have 500-word papers to write in English about something, I usually write them before school the day they’re due.

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