Tuesday, July 12, 2005

An Unexpected Pivot- I

I have one more (arguable) near death type of experience I could relate at this point, but I think I am going to save the telling of that tale, if at all, for a later post. Let's change topics abit and talk about an pivot that came my way, when I least expected it.

Back in the late 80's, while I was single and a recent graduate of law school, one of my favorite pastimes was to spend Sunday nights browsing at bookstores. Having grown up in rural America, and having gone to a public school that, shall we say, was not a exactly a hotbed of new and exciting ideas, the late 80's was a phase where I was trying to catch up on somce basic learning about ideas and history that most people acquire as a matter of course in their pre-college schooling. This approach led to an eclectic course of self-study, which led to a form of serial book-browsing, which led me to a most interesting book.

One Sunday night, I found myself browsing Paul M. Johnson's Intellectuals, a nice little one volume work that had recently been published, with some fanfare. Intellectuals is an overview of the "great thinkers," and examines the question of why so many of the great thinkers' personal lives failed to match up with their public pronouncements. I had read some of Paul Johnson's other works, and his thesis matched my general view that many of the intellectual "do-gooder" types were misguided, at best, and shysters, at worst. I looked forward to reading the book, but was in trial that following week, was a groomsman in a good friend's wedding later in the week, and was otherwise too busy to read but a single chapter of the book.

The single chapter I read that week regarded a certain Percy Bysshe Shelley, a romantic poet about whom I knew very little. I don't recall why I decided to read the chapter on Shelley, but, in one of those interesting twists of fate that sometimes await if we are paying attention, the purchase of this book--and my quite accidental decision to read the chapter on Shelley--significantly and unexpectedly changed the direction of my life.