I had one of those dreams which are made of equal parts thought experiment and unconscious chaos. I imagined, or dreamed, of a well known woman in her early fifties. Let’s call her Joan. In this dream/ thought experiment I read a biography of her, which was, I must admit, so thick that I had expected more of it. The book was packed with tiny font type for nearly 1000 pages, but mainly it had nearly no personal details about what Joan was like. It was more a detailed and annotated account of her accomplishments, which is why despite its vastness; I could fill in the emotional blanks that the author left out. Since Joan is the invention of my imagination, I will not bore you with the same monotonous 1000 pages, but instead, just bullet points of a few milestones in her 52 year old life.
1. Her Birth was not so exceptional, so I am not sure why I am including it, but she was born around the summer solstice of 1960, though that makes no difference to anything. Sorry.
2. She learned to read at 3, and by the age of 5 had snuck a copy of that long Victor Hugo book about the history of world off of the shelf of her Francophile parents, and unlike even her parents, she read it, which was to shape her worldview by skewing it towards unrealistic dreams of empirical grandeur.
3. At 6 she admitted to being able to read, but only “Ted and Jane” stories. Her parents quickly ordered a subscription to “Lisette”, which was a French children’s magazine, in French. Rather than going back to that long Hugo book to read in the original French rather than in translation, she chose the only French language book she could find in the living room, “Madame Bovary”. Why the author of the biography did not dig deeper into the long term psychological effects of numbers 2 and 3, I do not know.
4. Her mathematical and musical abilities formed at around the same time, (also age 6) leading legions of unmathematical and unmusical people to make that tired argument, that music and math are the same thing, which I personally have never understood. This could of course be due to my own lack of ability to do either with the prodigiousness of Joan. Anyway, she played the usual Bach “Well Tempered Clavier”, but preferred to do improvisational deconstructions of Elvis Presley hit songs. Mathematically she learned arithmetic, but found it boring. She again sought out the library of her academic parents and found a book on linear algebra, where she succeeded in conquering 2 dimensional matrices nearly immediately, and moved on to the 3 dimensional variety, at this young age when most children didn’t even know there were 3 spatial dimensions. As a sidenote, but of relevance here, she later admitted that she did suspect even at that time that it was possible that there were other dimensions than the 3 spatial ones we were familiar with, but that they must be too small for us to see. This would mean that her mathematical intuition predated string theory by nearly 20 years, but who would have listened to such ramblings from a 6 year old?
5. In high school, the enormity of her intellect was still mostly unknown, though she had shared it with one person, a boy, which the book only describes as average, but makes me (both the me of my dream, and the me reading the bio) suspicious, as I see no reason for an exceptional person such as Joan to share her secret genius with an average person. As another sidenote this may be exactly what an exceptional person does which is why exceptional people are so hard to relate to, or so my thinking goes at this point in the biography, and actually at this point in this story.
6. At age 21 Joan had the only extreme normal excess decadence recorded in all 1000 pages, which strikes me as strange for 2 reasons. First why she would be so normal as to celebrate such a common birthday with such a common thing as beer keg parties and shots of gin, but also because as my thinking goes, 21 wasn’t really 21 for Joan. I justify this as a calculation similar to the way people calculate dog years, though maybe not for the same reason. The dog year’s thing is depressing when you actually think about it. It is a way for children, and I guess all of us who love dogs, to justify their demise. Like that one year of the dog’s life was really worth 7 of ours. Which is also curious, as this would lead to me to wonder whether that means that it is actually the dog that is living the full life, as it takes us 7 years to do what we should be doing in 1 year.
7. At age 21.5 Joan makes the major decision in her life which she is now famous for. Famous is over stating it of course, but for which she is most well known amongst those who know of her at all. She decides that despite her deity like ability to do anything, she was going to use her skills in a place where it was most needed, and that was going to take her on a long journey across the ocean from her native Westchester County to London England. When in London she followed in a long history of European women of intellectual import, and changed her name to the masculine Georges, and though she was indeed in England she kept the French spelling in honor of her Francophile parents who were Stateside locked deeply in the confines of tenure professorships, never to leave for the promised old world.
8. Between the ages of 21.5 and 36 she went from hope to despair and back again, with a number of survival jobs, while she tried to find an approach to that ultimate release of her mind and body. Of her jobs, she was able to make enough of a living wage to move into a rather nice flat near Piccadilly Circus, by having a busker show where she calculated the day of the week each passerby was born on simply by knowing their birthdays.
9. At the age of 36 she was finally approached by the BBC, for the very purpose she had emigrated for, and suffered all of those years. That is, she was asked to be a writer on the BBC show “Doctor Who”.
10. Despite the 10 years between the old series and the new, Joan/Georges was able to use her “Doctor Who” knowledge and her own genius to predict everything from hurricane Katrina to the upset victory of the Red Sox in the 2003 World Series, though at the time, she kept this information in the confines of an anonymous blog,(yes predating the widespread use of blogs by 3 years) by the name of quantumfluxgirl. She is now happily back at work on the 6th season of the new series.