In Defense of Multitudes

📘 Personal

📆 2022-03-15

On viewing the world as a window, not a ladder

In Defense of Multitudes

Recently, against my better judgement and with great reluctance, I convinced myself to look up the definitions of “wordcel” and “shape rotator”. Based on connotation and association alone, I thought at first these phrases defined worlds I’d never know — digital cabals with elaborate initiation rituals I’d surely have no interest in learning about, let alone performing.

I needn’t have worried; by the time I learned what these words meant, I’d already joined both groups. For the uninitiated, a “wordcel” is someone who uses overly-complicated words, like “connotation” and “cabal”. A “shape rotator” refers to the act of rotating shapes in your head, and applies to people who prefer building systems to talking about them.

The debate I’ve seen around these terms seems to imply that the two phrases stand in contrast to each other, and that someone who is good at one cannot possibly be good at the other. I cannot say I disprove this rule, as I don’t consider myself particularly adept at either. What I can say is that the limited success I’ve enjoyed in my life to date has come from being able to converse with both of these worlds to varying degrees. Living at this boundary has come with more than its fair share of contrasts, some of them so strong they verge on the paradoxical.

I’m a history and writing graduate who self-taught my way into a career in software engineering. I’m a complex board game enthusiast who’s better known for my ability to teach games than for my skill in winning them. I love obscurity in the arts (L’Avventura and The Color of Pomegranates are my current favorite movies), but I find obscurity in programming to be destructive and entropic. My website is titled MarioWhoWrites, but this is my first blog post in over a year.

Now, it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that I reconcile some of these differences by finding a middle ground between two extremes. To be sure, I’d enjoy writing more and losing fewer games. But I read an article some years ago on the death of the polymath, which lamented the loss of knowledge within ivory towers of specialization. And I often find times where my knowledge in one subject helps me to better contextualize another.

So, I write this as a perpetual challenge to myself: to channel my inner Whitman and embrace my multitudes. It may not make life any easier, but it sure does make it more interesting.