[personal profile] lhexa
In my third year at Chicago, when tiny pieces of me were starting to break away, I visited Larry McEnerney for the last time. I had shown him The Nine Charioteers, perhaps hoping that he would sense the despair voiced in it. He began to articulate his thoughts about its structure, but stopped when I could only stare blankly, his uncanny teacher's intuition probably telling him that I was not in a position to understand my creation. Dr. McEnerney said instead, "You have great things ahead of you," then the conversation turned elsewhere. I did cherish that statement. That little thing gave some warmth in the cold places I was subsequently to go.

It was not his greatest gift to me, though. His greatest gift was the patient rebuke, repeated several times through the course of our encounters, for an arrogance developed over the course of a lifetime: a gentle rebuke, without anger or scorn, yet forceful enough to rattle that arrogance where very little else could. The memory of those rebukes, whose lessons I have still not fully learned, guards against the excesses to which memories of praise can lead a person. Praise will warm you: and if you are enchained, it will warm you in your chains.

Larry's statement was one of a series, the most recent of which came only a few months ago, when Dr. Rindler, my mentor from UT Dallas, encouraging me in my ordeal of changing advisors, wrote, "You have as brilliant a mind as any I have come across." What am I to do with this series, this wedge in the door of my self-knowledge? I only realized a few months ago, in the wake of learning to not adapt, that I have kept it more secret than any of my shames or regrets. I thought for a long time that I kept the praise secret out of an aversion to bragging, as though only civility kept me from revealing the thorough grooming I had received from an early age.

It's not a grooming that I can beg sympathy for. I benefited and continue to benefit, and my strongest aversion to that aspect of my development is a recurrent anguish that some of my friends, equally meriting such grooming, did not receive it... my blessings are not all internal. I brag that mine was not an easy clay to shape, that I resisted my schooling to a degree that few else who have still continued their schooling can claim, but the defiance was not complete. There was always that gap in the back of my defenses, through which slipped such notions as brilliance, superior intelligence, genius...

It is a strong river into which I was thrown so early, and you cannot rightly expect a child to resist it: the most you can hope is that he keeps his head above the water. But it has a chaotic flow, and can take one strange places. There was one step of this long grooming, a "Talent Identification Program" where middle-schoolers who did well on an early SAT took college courses over the summer, in which a wild sequence of coincidences and events took place. At an age when most children thus groomed would have started to wonder whether they were geniuses, I started to wonder whether I was a dragon.

I can't say it didn't make sense! What else but strangeness could explain all the strangeness? I never quite believed that I was a dragon, but held it as an aspiration instead. My draconity occupied a realm of speculation and fantasy below, but not less important than, the categories of knowledge and belief. In certain periods it is right for your fantasies to be more important to you than your beliefs. And I can say, with some assurance, that thinking about my draconity filled the same emotional role that speculating about a future brilliance did for others. One believes in dragons and in geniuses for much the same reason.

Date: 2011-01-15 10:27 pm (UTC)
davv: The bluegreen quadruped. (Default)
From: [personal profile] davv
Over here, there is no formal grooming, as that would be tantamount to admitting that not everybody is equal and that the one-size-fits-all approach can't work. The closest thing I remember was taking advanced mathematics as an elective (and that was way back when I didn't know how to calculate the Euclidean distance in more than two dimensions).

Date: 2011-01-16 05:43 am (UTC)
wickedorin: Dissidia!Ex-Mode!Seph (Default)
From: [personal profile] wickedorin
I suppose all I can say is that I believe in dragons and I believe in geniuses, though I suspect they are in forms that I could not easily identify.

Date: 2011-01-16 11:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
guilen here. Love this post. Might have just explained everything :p
hope you're well


Date: 2011-08-08 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'm a big fan of White Wolf games, and I loved their "Changeling" game - mythological creatures caught in the body of day-to-day individuals. There was the idea that ANYONE might be something magical. Well, not boring people, but certainly nearly anyone.

There were several fan write-ups for "dragons in the body of a human," it seemed an idea that the fanbase could resonate to--would it be fair to say that a dragon is about as close to a deity or a primal force that you can get, while still being wrapped in flesh? I don't think that's an unfair assessment. But I don't think this was about the power-gaming necessarily (though that was there).

Maybe they're unusually human for mythological creatures, and have a range of personalities (benign, malevolent), serve a range of purposes (guardian, messenger, victim of cursed transformation...) More flexible a myth than most, nearly as diverse as humans are.

At any rate, it seems just on this side of possible that a creature that's got one foot in the heavens and one firmly on earth COULD find its home in a human form. A believable sort of incarnation.

I'm free-rambling and at work, I love your closing line.



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