A fragment of a letter:




I have read and enjoyed your table of contents for your autobiography.  It prompted me to revisit that task.  I thought, were I to write a book, what would I write?  There are lots of ways to answer that question.  One of my first thoughts was to consider what I am passionately interested in.  Here’s a list of some of the items I care most about:


While most of my training has been in the humanities, I am very strongly interested in several sciences.  I’m not trained in math, but I am fascinated by physics and cosmology.  I have studied Newtonian physics and how it evolved into relativity physics.  Relativity physics is especially interesting to me because of the ways it requires me to rethink my own perceptions.  Einstein asked us to give up on absolute time and space, which means that we have to stop thinking in terms of what is “really” happening.  There is no such thing.  I’m not smart enough to think very far in those lines, but I understand enough relativity physics to see that my natural framework is wrong.  Quantum physics is even weirder.  I have a tiny, introductory idea of what quantum physics is about, but I know that the quantum physics is totally bizarre.  Whatever I think I might understand about it is almost certainly wrong.  I am interested and I read lay person materials on the subject nonetheless.


I am fascinated by the theory of evolution also, for similar reasons.  I have a strong enough basis in traditional science that I at least get most of what evolution is about.  As much as I am interested in evolution, I am fascinated by the resistance to the theory.  There is a whole strain of wacko creationist theories that refuses to see the power of evolution.


In the same way, I am strongly interested in the US Constitution and the subsequent history of Supreme Court decisions that have interpreted the Constitution.  And of course, as in evolution, there is a current in American history that insists upon misinterpreting the Constitution in the same way that evolution is misunderstood.  Lots of conservatives imagine that there is no separation between church and state even though there are scores of original documents proving that the intentions of the founders was a sectarian government.  Conservatives have never been very interested in fact or primary documents in history.


Here I find myself backtracking further on how I think.  I love figuring out systems and structures in our thinking.  The most important book in my own intellectual development is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.  That was the book that introduced the word “paradigm” into European/American culture.  The concept is that all human cognition is based on models or organizations of the cosmos and that we perceive through lens that shape our perception.  Those lens evolve over time.  Periodically a paradigm fails which means that a given paradigm accumulates too many anomalies and a new paradigm is required, hence the origins of the phrase “a paradigm shift.”  One of the most well-known paradigm shifts was from the earth centered universe to the sun centered universe to a nothing centered universe.  I majored in philosophy in college, but more specifically I majored in the philosophy of science which means that I was most focused on how we think we know things scientifically.  Fascinating to me and boring to most people.


I am also fascinated by the details of people’s stories, especially at decision points.  I have a fairly unromantic idea about falling in love or the beginning of important relationships.  Most of the criteria people rely on in making those decisions is probably unconscious.  People make choices based on pheromones or agents released by organisms for the purposes of affecting the behavior of other organisms.  It is the basis for identifying DNA controlling immunity.  For billions of years combining DNA that maximize the strength of immunity to viruses and bacteria has bestowed a selective advantage.  Certainly that evolutionary dynamic contributes to human choices.  Very unromantic, but something as important as a major evolutionary advantage can’t be left to vagaries of teenage lust or anxiety.  Very unromantic.


Other unromantic decisions also fascinate me.  That people usually choose mates that have nearly identical economic potential shows that bloodless considerations come into play.  I remember when I first met Adele, I had not long before exited a painful and ill-conceived marriage.  I was determined to have my own life separate from women.  I was living in a two-bedroom apartment with my eight-year-old son.  My determination to simplify my life showed in what I owned.  We had two single beds.  I owned two plates, two spoons, two forks, two knives, two chairs, etc.  I had one uncomfortable couch, a TV, a bookshelf, and not much else.  When Adele visited my apartment – after she was satisfied that I was a great candidate for mate for her – she was delighted to see that I didn’t have much stuff that she – like most women, I think – would have to get rid of once she had acquired me.  (That’s coarser description than I mean, but you get my point.)  I, on the other hand, visited her apartment not long after her mother had downsized her residence and had sent to Adele an apartment full of wonderful furniture: high-end, shell-backed chairs, two comfortable couches, expensive end tables, etc.  I remember thinking with seconds of seeing her apartment that I was way out of my league.  I felt like a student still in college and living with the crap I had found in the apartment I had moved into and here I was proposing to join lives with a fully-grown, financially mature woman.  I even remember the words I thought: “Boy, am I playing out of my league.”  Fortunately, I have a fairly well cultivated disregard for convention.


Anyway, my point is that people working their way through a negotiation process – in which they are negotiating not only with the prospective mate, but their own sense of who they themselves are, are entitled to, and what they think they can make happen – consciously and unconsciously make strategic choices much more material and prosaic than romantic stories tolerate.  Long after the terms of a relationship have been established and long after a person has lived in a relationship, some of those nonromantic decisions can be discerned.  Those are the details of a story about the beginnings of a relationship that I love to find out about.


I do love Adele and I am totally devoted to her and I do relish the life I have with her, but my point is that the stories people have to tell about themselves are complex and multi-layered, mixing emotions and hard-hearted tactical decisions.  My assessment of how people, including me, navigate relationship building says a lot about who I am and so are exactly what an autobiography should include.


Anyway, that’s me.


I break here to get this letter in the mail to you today.  I am finishing a painting project in my home today, having lunch with my old friend LeRoy, and then going out to dinner with Adele and then to a production at the Jungle Theater.


As always,