Joys of Oddity 11/7/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

A few days ago, I wrote about my odd interests and likes. When I say odd, I mean that, as an American male, there are certain things that I am expected to “be into”, hobbies and likes that are fairly common among men who are men. I’ve tried a few of them, like my motorcycle effort, and I’ve even tried playing football (in high school) and golf. I’ve stunk at all of them. The possible reasons could be physical, since I’m a fairly small man (thanks to my mother smoking while pregnant with me which she tearfully confessed some years ago while claiming it’s her fault that I was so small when I was born), and my balance isn’t the best and certainly isn’t improving with age. I’ve always had good reflexes, I used to have very powerful legs (in my youth), but not speed, and not coordination. Just not a good combination for sports (you want me now, don’t you, this doddering old weakening off-balanced slow uncoordinated man?). But mostly, I’m sure it’s because I just didn’t care. Without a passion, I didn’t really put in the time and effort to be successful. I have a good friend who is an artist, and every time I compliment her talent she sarcastically replies, “Oh, thanks, I practiced for hours.”

The funny thing is that I’ve picked up some odd habits through these efforts. The impetus for this post is actually solitaire. Yes, I still play solitaire on my phone, and I noticed that when I took a break to read, I was using my golf hold to hold my phone. (As an aside, I used solitaire to explain the concepts of thermodynamics when I taught many years ago. I would have a deck of cards and start playing solitaire before class began, and when it did, I just kept playing until somebody asked if I was going to start. Then I would launch into how solitaire explains entropy, the natural tendency to high entropy on shuffling, and how we can decrease the entropy on the cards by doing work on the system. One of the oddest questions I had in this demonstration came from a student who asked, “I thought you needed a computer to play solitaire?”)

The way I hold my phone, influenced by my experience in trying the game of “Hit the Ball In The Hole 18 Times”, colloquially referred to as “golf”, is one of the things that is just a little bit off about me, and if David Bowie thinks that makes me something of a space cadet, well, I’ll own that.

I’ve always been a little bit off, and believe me, it takes courage to be unique. My taste in music includes a love for classical music, so odd that when my seven-year-old nephew saw Fantasia for the first time he said, “Uncle Rich would like this music!” Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do. I wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat in Cincinnati while I was in college, which was very odd but I just liked the look. I’m into science instead of sports, and enjoy “unpopular” games like chess.

I’m a FREAK.

But I’m also me. And that’s okay. Periodically I used to say, “it’s wonderful living in a country where everybody can be a unique individual as long as they are exactly like everybody else.” We’ve seen these “rebellious” trends show up every once in a while, but the reality is that you cannot be rebellious in a trend. The two concepts are antithetical to one another.

YOU are probably odd, too. Another odd thing about me is this blog. In an age where people are moving towards video blogs (like “podcasts”; there have been many names over the years but they all mean people posting videos of themselves), I actually take the time to use the written word in my blog. Type is losing favor so badly these days that some schools are not even teaching handwriting. And yet, here I am, typing. YOU are odd because you are actually READING this blog, instead of looking for a video of people falling off of motorcycles as something that, for some reason, my motorcycle instructors found “humorous”.

This is a celebration of all things unique, all things odd, those strange little things that make you yourself, and more importantly, those things you have the courage to continue to do. I still love dressing up for Renaissance Fairs, and playing role-playing games, and I have no doubt that I always will. Those odd things that make you stand out are the very same things that make you such a wonderful human being. So, vive la difference. Have the courage to be that odd one out, and if anybody asks, talk about it. If people judge you, that’s a reflection of their own uncertainty and problem, not yours. You’re a odd person, and I love you for it!

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