Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Birdman Redux

No, not that Birdman.

I’m talking about the 1962 Burt Lancaster flick I watched a few years ago.  Actually, about the post I wrote on it.  Specifically, what I’d do with 30 years in Solitary.  And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately (Hopper’s automatic reset under stress is to wistfully wonder what it’d be like to be a hermit.)

So I decided to repost it now because I like it so much.  In fact, it should be linked under the “Best Ofs” over on the left of the page.

* * * * *

I must admit one thought dominated my mind after watching the Birdman movie a few days ago.  What would I do if I was sentenced to spend the rest of my life in solitary confinement?

Unlike a lot of people I know, my wife especially, the thought does not scare me.  It is not a version of my personal, private hell.  My personal, private hell would be me condemned to a lifetime of cocktail party mingling where I was severely evaluated on every performance, perhaps to determine how much food or water or sleep I would get afterwards.  Uck, I’m shuddering already.

The Birdman’s plight appeals to the inner monk in me, I suppose.  The follow-up question is, what would I do with a whole life’s time in a ten-by-ten foot cell?

No doubt it would be something intellectual.  I’m not well-known or regarded around these parts as hands-on.  Even given 3,360 hours (seven months awake in solitary) I don’t think I’d be able to transform a wood crate into a birdcage.  But that’s just me.

I often gripe in these electronic pages how I wish I had more time for this and that.  How I’d like to re-read this, or study that.  Well, this mental exercise puts you on the spot.  What would you do with all that time? 

How much time we talking about?  You’re awake 16 hours a day (the 17th, say, is for exercise).  Let’s subtract an hour a day for eating, washing, etc.  That’s 15 hours a day, or 5,475 hours a year.

Remember my post on the Rule of 10,000?  In solitary confinement, you’d master any given subject, on average, in about 22 months.

(Say, Lawrence was in the desert for 22 months.  Coincidence?)

The Birdman worked with his little winged friends, I’m guesstimating, about thirty years.  That’s 164,250 hours, or almost 16 and a half 10,000-hour periods.  No wonder he became the foremost authority on the planet concerning canaries.

Me, I guess from an actuarial standpoint I’ll be around for another forty-five years.  246,375 hours, or 24 and a half 10,000-hour periods.

What would I master?

Hmmmm.  It would be tough.  If you think about it, Birdman was really the anti-Hopper.  In the time he took from finding little sparrowling to writing his Encyclopedia of Bird Diseases, I would probably read two thousand SF paperbacks and two thousand hardcover books covering a thousand various topics.  That’s a real diffusion of focus, and that’s the curse of Hopperhood.

So, allow me a year – that’s 5,475 hours, remember – to overcome Hopperism. 

After that, I’d consider this list …

1. Reconcile quantum physics with general relativity

2. Solve the Riemann hypothesis predicting the distribution of prime numbers

3. Master Aquinian philosophy and theology and apply it to today’s society

4. Completely map out the human consciousness a la Husserl and his phenomenology

5. Memorize the Catholic Bible verse-by-verse and understand it spiritually, metaphysically, historically, anthropologically, symbolically, and as literature

6. As a corollary to #5, master Latin, ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic

7. Compose a dozen symphonies synthesizing the ideas and motifs of Sibelius, Dvorak, Brahms, and Wagner (good luck with that!) and striving beyond them

8. Study the art and science of English poetry – Shakespeare, Donne, Byron, Keats, Shelly, Tennyson, Browning, et al, and after at least a decade, try my own hand at it

But instead of all that, I’d probably just

1. Write a hundred science fiction novels.  One of ’em has to be publishable!

Heck, after 246,000 hours of writing, one of ’em better be the next Moby Dick!

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