Numbers are excellent. As long as something is expressed in numbers, it seems rational, sane, comforting. Like NASA in the 1960s — basically, it was all brains and slide rules. Numbers have power, but it’s a reasonable, understandable power.
Words, on the other hand, are terrifying. They do all sorts of ridiculous, unpredictable things for no reason. Maybe the psychologists think they know, but I sure don’t. And I should. I’ve used far more than my lifetime allotment of semicolons already, and I have used them correctly. And I am downright Burgess Meredith in The Twilight Zone about books.
Still, you can’t fly to the Moon with words like you can fly to the Moon with numbers (actually, that sounds like either an excellent or terrible science fiction premise). But Jules Verne, in his own way, took us to the Moon 104 years before Houston did. So, there are arguments still to be made for words. They were certainly my first love, before I knew that such a love was considered the realm of a certain nerdy subset of the population, and not universal.
I have just enough poetry rattling around in my head that certain lines will spring appropriately to my attention at certain times — I once memorized Keats’ “When I have fears that I may cease to be” for a class, and I use it to distract myself when I’m bored. And of course there was the case of the shuttle launch.
Anyway, I realize that a post about being an English nerd would be incomplete without some Shakespeare, so, here are a few lines I’ve found poignant from time to time in my neuroscience studies:
“Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?”
— Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3, Lines 40-45