I’ve never felt like a bigger idiot than when trying to read Ptolemy’s The Almagest. First of all, I inevitably always pronounce the P when speaking about it. And constantly get corrected, but can’t stop doing it. Secondly, I switch the m and the g of “almagest” in my head so often that in my deepest heart I’m not reading The Almagest, I’m reading The Algamest. Third, it’s a lot of information that I’ll never remember. I hate knowing that what I’m reading is not going to sink in… it’s all just a passing whimsy and I’ll be able to tell you nothing of value about it when I’m done with it.
Nevertheless, I’m enjoying reading it. Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, I think. Also, it’s included in The Great Books, it’s fat (roughly 600 pages), and it’s part of our ancient history – which I’m a huge sucker for.
Reading stuff like this is kind of like watching certain sports for me. I can follow the games, I know what’s going on, and I thoroughly enjoy them – but I don’t have sports lingo dripping from my lips and I rarely will discuss them with people because I know I’ll just sound like a moron. I like the ambiance of the game and the thrill of hard work and athleticism paying off. Just like I love the exertion it takes to read things slightly outside my knowledge base. They are similar experiences for me. Dropping me into a martial arts ring is more like breezing through fiction – I know it so well I can function there with my eyes closed.
It sounds completely absurd, even as I type it – but Ptolemy is like watching The Rockets play. I’m there. I get it. I’m enjoying. I love it. I will devour it – with chips, salsa, and beer. I will not, however, scream and shout with the other fans or talk about it tomorrow; and if you try to talk to me about it, I’ll clam up. Mention apogees in anything other than reciting a chant from Bedknobs and Broomsticks and you’ll see the same blank expression on my face when people shout “Wet!” I read that, I heard that… I internally absorbed it somewhere in my brain. But please, please, don’t quiz me. That’s recipe for an anxiety attack right there.
There are some things in life we should be allowed to simply enjoy without analyzation. Therefore, just like I will never be any good at fantasy leagues, I will also never be able to give an intelligent lecture on Ptolemy and his great work. But I’ll have fun being a half hearted amateur/ closet fan of both.