They say great things have humble origins, but of course so do tiny things, like this blog.
I’ve been silently preoccupied with doing a blog for years now–but with my usual curse of reticence and tone-deafness to the trendy, I only now have come to actually trying it. You might say I have suffered a kind of stage fright, worrying that my posts will be violently panned and the blogging police sent to my doorstep to bludgeon me with virtual tomatoes. This now seems unlikely or pointless to worry about, and the problem is if anything the exact opposite: with 260 million others on Tumblr alone, the odds that even a handful of people will ever find, let alone stop to read these posts, gives pause to say the least.
My main project here though is not to gain popularity, but to build up some decent writing and hone my skills for an assault on that shining, hallowed citadel: science journalism (insert irony mark here). However my interests are broad, sometimes eclectic, and not just confined to the scientific world. There may be rantings about alternative energy and climate change, AI, Martian colonization, but also motley appearances by philosophers or poets, and apoplectic episodes about systemic political dysfunction. It’s hard to judge how it will all pan out, and I have found myself characteristically over-thinking just how to proceed, what exact subjects to focus on, what style to embrace, and so on. I suspect that it all will converge upon its own natural sort of flow no matter what I do, as long as I keep trying at it, so: here’s to the slow self-unraveling of all bloated pretense!
It feels right to give a quick account of what led me to the somewhat screwball name of this blog. For one thing, it’s hard to find any good alliterative blog-name phrases that haven’t already been claimed, due to that 260-million figure I mentioned. But regardless of that, like everything else in my type-A existence, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with the Perfect Blog Name. Naturally this completely eluded me, even after hundreds of would-be ideas that I threw away as too generic, too flippant, or too-cleverly-punny-not-to-be-already-taken (I’m looking you, ProseAndCons.com).
“Peeling the Paradox”, imperfect as it is, gives exactly the image of what I want to do here. I have always felt unusual (at least among people over age 10) in that I am continually amazed or perplexed by nearly everything I encounter; by reports about the direction of the world, by developments in scientific knowledge and scientific institutions, by the rising of the sun in its immensity and by the smallest bug or bacterium. Life itself seems to me, in a word, paradoxical; where most other adult human beings I meet seem to have the gift of suavely taking the world at face value, I feel a constant and nettling need to peel away all this seeming strangeness and chaos and expose the truth, or at least make a solid stab at the truth. This will thus hopefully be the world’s first venue for the little-appreciated art of paradox-peeling.
A little about me: my main training and experience is in academic science. I recently completed grad school in biochemistry at a fancy-name East Coast school, and outside the blogosphere, and am now trying to figure out my next steps in a surreally dismal job market. (I don’t want to vent too much about this, yet I also sense that what I am experiencing is not a completely isolated case, but part of a much larger trend, and as such might call for some future paradox-peeling work in its own right.) I’m trying to jump-start a medical career, but aside from that there are few things in the world I think more fascinating as a life goal than to create a book(s)–fiction or nonfiction, sci-fi or symphonic score, I don’t care. Over the years I’ve gone from being utterly terrified of writing, and the ultimate procrastinator when it came time to write essay assignments for classes, to seeing it as a constant friend in the form of random aphorisms, micro-stories, and brief essays. I think it’s high time to get some of that stuff hammered into an at least halfway coherent form, and put it out in the sunlight.
So here is my goal: to clunk out a minimum of one little post a week, at least a four or five paragraphs, on whatever happens to grab my imagination. Beyond that, I have no idea whatsoever what will happen. And so, to all of you 0.03 people a month who will likely ever read this, sit back and enjoy this cyberspatial, paradoxical rollercoaster!