Normally before I go to sleep I lie in bed and read for a while (Right now I’m on Sagan’s “Demon-Haunted World“). If I’m not careful, I’ll read for several hours before I realize it, so I’ll usually force myself to put the book down so I’m not all red-eyed during my first class. Sometimes I’m so worked up after whatever I’ve been reading that I can’t sleep. Occasionally I’ll mentally jog mountain-bike trails to help me go to sleep. Other times I’ll try to push everything out of my mind and repeat the word “and” over and over until I drift off. Since I’ve been reading Sagan I’ve been feeling a little more philosophical and the like, so after I closed my book last night I tried to mentally determine how I formed my individual episteme.
At first I thought about over-arching forces, such as being an educated southern male or the friends and role models that I’ve had, but that got boring. Frankly, those things were far too easy to identify. So then I tried to identify seemingly inconsequential locations of influence. For instance, I sucked at science in high school, but more than thirteen years later I’m heavily interested in scientific discoveries and the scientific method as it applies to our culture in general, and my life specifically. Obviously, reading stuff from folks like Michael Shermer, Stephen Jay Gould, and Carl Sagan might have something to do with that interest. But as I thought more about it, Alton Brown has probably had more of a constant, everyday influence than any of those guys. Sure, Carl Sagan had a much bigger impact on the world of science than Alton Brown, but I watch Good Eats every day, sometimes twice a day, and A.B. is one hell of a science teacher. Not to mention his version of scientific inquiry usually leads to some seriously good eats.
It also occurred to me that despite everything I’ve read from people like Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Hobbes, Orwell, and so on, I’ve probably been shaped more by people like George Carlin than I have traditional philosophers. I’m such a stand-up comedy junkie that if I’m being honest I’d have to admit that people like Carlin, Miller, Rock, Pryor, Black, Cosby, Kinison, Stewart, and so forth, have had defining roles in my life. Much more so than those other guys.
Those are just two examples of things that came to mind. Here’s a brief list of some of the other things:
1. Kevin Smith movies. Kevin made me feel okay about being an extroverted, popular culture nerd.
2. Hair-band music. As much as I like to pretend to be an intellectual I’ll always be only two seconds away from banging my head and letting metal health drive me mad.
3. AD&D (more specifically, 3rd edition). In our small town the game was demonized by the local churches. Actually playing it and seeing how ill-informed those people were really had a big impact on me.
So, what are some odd things that have had an impact on the knowledge you have and the ways you apply that knowledge to the world?