So I figured why I am periodically deprived of social skill. It’s that simple: not enough exposure to the world around me. People who worship carpe diem have at least one merit worth mentioning, that they value experience above anything. Within reason that is. And I won’t go as far as borrowing money for traveling around the globe, or paying a prostitute to experiment on exotic positions (maybe I would pay a stock broker to get into some long positons in exotic options, but that’s a very different story and a botched up joke probably). Anyway my point was that one must be reasonable in choosing the vehicle through which he experiences the world. I chose recently to read magazines. Not Playboy of course, I was never into that. Seriously, that’s like the worst form of sexual healing. I read more elite periodical such as the Economist, the Science weekly, and the Financial times. The Economist merits a lot of discussion here. I found the articles contained in it very accessible to an average college-educated mind (although I do not claim that I have acquired the bulk of knowledge desired of a typical college graduate in the states, since they know way more random shit than I do). But catching up with the mainstream of thought puts you naturally in a losing situation, because you are constantly ackowledging the inferiority of your past life and the model you set up for yourself is no one but an average Joe. And here is what I found most intriguing about my reading experience so far: you get most up to date news feed, and an in-depth analysis thereof, which combined with a slew of headlines, make you more consciously aware of the larger community. Thus we attain the savvyness of an ancient Chinese war strategist. This all sounds pretty simple and easily implementable, but people often don’t realize how important it is to refresh our thought process on a daily basis. I used to (actually two days ago) challenge the Western philosophy of criticizing, analyzing, evaluating everything they see and hear, without slowing down and pausing for the love of a peaceful mind. I was wrong apparently after talking with a friend from the East coast. There was no evidence or rationale I could present to him that justifies the more laid-back, counterproductive attitude I was holding before. Indeed a resting brain easily becomes a rusty one. Sounds cliche? But to an observer, I might look like my brain is incessantly engaged in some form of sex-like pleasure seeking venture (to quote Steven Hawking partially). No, the naked truth is we mathemticians do waste a lot of time getting stuck. And unless you are Von Neumann or some other divinely gifted personage, getting stuck is part of the learning process. So what I need is to counterbalance it with casual, leisurely reading of other things, that could equally carry on my intellectual flow. Magazines offer an excellent source of such extraneous information.
I have by no means proof that the Economist is the best written journal in the world. In fact many chinese magazines outstrip it so far as literary stylishness is concerned. And from what I heard, the New Yorker is a far "deeper" magazine than virtually anything else on the planet, whatever deep means here. But the Economist most likely is the least specialized among the periodical category and offers a broad range of perspective over all kinds of global issues. It is highly commendable in a society like america where people think to themselves secretly that the world is made up of 50 states, and all the rest are natural resorts. I was initially motivated by the economic side as implicated by the title, but soon I discovered a whole range of other topics, from science to engineering to even regional description of places like India etc, which instantly filled some cavity in my highly inhomogeneous brain.
I appreciated also the language I am absorbing and reabsorbing over the reading period. My level of confidence of the English language hit the lowest when I am most absorbed in my homework. In some sense many subjects in college work against each other. Math problem solving and BSing skill certain don’t go hand in hand. The reason might well be that a lack of creativity is sorta imbedded in giving rigorous proofs, which involve calculations highly sensitive to careless mistakes; whereas BSing is synonymous to exploitation imagination and putting it into words. I actually like the longer definition better since no matter how unethical giving BS might be, the person administering it is still contributing to the world of rhetorics, and not only is he fooling the audience, but he is also conditioning (or has preconditioned) himself to relax the natural scrutinizing impulse for the benefit of more practical utility.