(Photo © 05moon)
Unregelmäßig genug um nicht zur Gewohnheit zu werden und verlässlich genug um sich darauf zu freuen landen Mails von Charles in meiner Inbox, der, wie wiederkehrende Leser/-innen wissen, vor einigen Monaten von NYC nach New Jersey gezogen ist und von dort seine Gedanken für Spreeblick bündelt.
In dieser Ausgabe lässt er sie jedoch eher schweifen. Ab. In die eigene Kindheit.
Recently, the New York Times reported on an odd statistical correlation seen between birth-month and soccer stardom. The author, a well-known statistician, proposed that this correlation is due to the extra encouragement that these players received as children because their birthdays were at the beginning of the range for their class year, making them physically more mature than other, younger children in the same class. In essence he argues that the encouragement and early success that these children enjoyed had trumped the natural ability of children born in the other months. I found this a little disconcerting
Is it really possible that our lives turn on arbitrary factors and episodes that we’re barely aware of? Is this proof of fate, in all its cruelty? It wasn’t long before I was trying to recollect my own early turning points. I’ve been drinking much less since moving to the suburbs, so now I can recollect events from my childhood. Five years ago that wouldn“™t have been possible.
One of the earliest turning points I can remember was when I was about twelve or thirteen: I had a clunky TI-99 (it had a keyboard AND game cartridges!), and one day my mom noticed me, off in my own little world, using a checkerboard to code bit-strings that spelled my name on the screen. She bragged about it at work and told me how impressed her co-workers were. I know, I know: moms always brag about their kids and tell them how special they are, but this time it made a difference for me. It made programming a part of my self-image before I knew what programming was.
Early success also fits in this statistical theory (as well as some behavioral theories). Unfortunately, it’s not always good behavior that is reinforced. Growing up, I was largely disliked in my neighborhood; mostly because I wasn’t inside the whole Irish parish system I think, but it didn’t help that I was a pretty weird kid, too. There was a lot of name-calling and rock throwing and that sort of thing almost as far back as I can remember. Though I mostly ignored it, at best I felt isolated and at worst persecuted. Then one day, I spontaneously began a campaign of sadistic violence, vandalism, and intimidation. It didn’t make me popular, of course, but that was OK. My brother later told me that by the time I was done he could’ve walked down the street in lingerie without hearing a word from anyone. Life was a little better after that. This episode began my love for The Deed. Am Anfang war die Tat.
Unfortunately, I also got to be a pain for my parents. When my dad wanted to take me to the pool instead of letting me visit my girlfriend I threw a tantrum and dug my heels in. He got me there anyway. Fine. I decided to demonstrate my bitterness by swimming unrelenting laps of angry protest. No pause, no waving, just lap after Olympic-length lap until I was allowed to leave. I would destroy myself with laps. That“™d show him. After about an hour of this he called for me to go and I clambered out of the pool ready for a bitter exchange about how unappreciative I was; but it never happened. He was beaming. He was proud of me. He couldn’t stop congratulating me for my vigorous, unflagging, self-destructive laps. Then, in spite of myself, I felt proud, too.
So now when I bike uphill until my lungs cringe in horror under my windpipe, or when I run until there are red rings around my vision, or when I drink until my legs go wobbly, that unqualified approval of psychotic behavior pushes me through.. Thanks, Dad!
Now back to drinking, before the low tide reveals more dormant, maudlin memories. I hope you have some of your own. Zum Wohl!