There is always something to be learned in a classroom, e.g., how to deal with a useless prof. or how to deal with an exceeding sophisticated one. Today I sorta had a third type of experience, a guest speaker who seems to have a personal grudge or vendetta against me. Well it might just be my imagination, but then I have a real psychological problem, i.e., the inability to take people’s natural reaction or personal style with peace of mind. I get excessively sensitive when my mind is less occupied, just like most people do. But this is often the onset of a vicious cycle. Once I became frustrated with personal contact, I tend to focus more and more on that aspect of my misery and become convinced that the only way to improve my situation is to fix the problem immediately. The same habit enters the way I learn new stuff as well, especially my bread and butter, mathematics. I get easily absorbed in reading for the sake of verifying its logical correctness, rather than trying to take whatever I can get out of the reading (another insight that Bryan Shu shared with me, kiss!). Sooner or later I run into some aforementioned logical flaws and under the conviction that the author is always right or at least 80 percent of the time right and I be 80% time wrong (which follows logically) since I am merely skimming the text whereas the author actually typed it up, I was only too willing to start a series of waves of self-criticism with stronger and stronger magnitude. Indeed I develop a huge amount of mistrust on my own caliber, judgment, accuracy, etc through these self-conditioned ego-corrective reading. And who’s the winner in the end? Usually my slothfulness and other obligations in life. Alas when can I stop spending several days staring blankly at the same spot on a research paper, when I could potentially listen to some hot rap music and relax my brain muscles to get better reflex in the immediate future? And in the mathematics department you rarely get such advices. Profs only wish students work harder and focus more their attentions on the details, when they turn their blind spot at people like me who completely go against the flow and are so goal-oriented that they can squeeze any amount of time out of their leisure to match the level of intellectual demand imposed on them. (It is a shame that I am writing longer and longer sentences since it’s a good sign I am out of content soon, at least pedagogically worthy content. Another that the English language doesn’t have the equivalent word for the Chinese 废话, with the right tone and right meaning I mean. )
So the second theme I am proposing in this thread is that of time efficiency. Someone once told me that life is short. Well I guess there are many people out there who have pretty low satisfaction threshold and to them time flies by like a m*f*er. But to a painful man (e.g. me, Arnold Schwazenneger), he simply can’t grasp its essence. When I stared at that French paper on some crazy Poisson structures, did I ever find it ridiculous that life could be so full of mental constipation and stagnation? It was only much later that I realize that the only advantage we have against the ancient is the speedy communication and transportation and abundance of resource, which would help us in whatever direction we are working towards, regardless of its level of autonomy. To a math geek like I stand right now, the only way to make sure he doesn’t go with the money driven popular flow and dump his fetish skill into some stock brokerage is this: absolutely no way! Unless, he discovers himself that there are things more valuable, more worthy of his short life, than simply material success, which includes of course sexual opportunities overriding lack of attractiveness. And unless he sees the world in its completeness, he is in no position to judge his own position with mathematical precision. It’s one lucky coincidence that I became involved with probability theory and stochastic process. You are educated, though through rather technical machineries and jargons, the importance of having all the information available to you before making an unbiased judgment. Same thing can’t be stressed enough in real life. So maybe it is pedagogically useful to forbid pointing out mistakes in others research work (at least in the mathematical community, where the target has usually undergone scrutiny of some seriously chosen referee). But what I need to do in the future is to rid myself of the shivering fear in changing gears and start diversifying my time investment so that I can co-explore my learning frontier with others around me. The trust I put in them and in this outside world in general, will rectify my devious attitude and align me with the positive trend of humanity. After all it is much less to blame if I learned the bad stuff from others than from unethical, irresponsible, wantom imagination.