04 Mind and Body Contemplations

The Pleasures of Being a Gourmind

Or the happiness of exploring new subjects

Photo courtesy Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I’ve had this issue for so long of being genuinely happy intellectually only when I am delving into a new subject. My dear wife claims it is because of the competitiveness that makes me want to know more than everyone else. There could be some truth in that, but I think it has to do with something else in my psyche.

I want to study new topics because uncovering them stimulates my mind and makes me feel more finished and fit. It probably rewards me with dopamine hits in the brain. I am fine even if I don’t share with others what I find. Not that I actively avoid it. Oh no. If you’re interested, I’ll tell you what I know, and we can explore it together. But I am content with knowing something for myself.

Here are a few undeniable instances of my malady.

I wasn’t very good at Hindi in high school. The challenge of becoming proficient in it got to me. As we entered Junior College (11th and 12th standards) for the language option my classmates took easy-to-score German or French, but I took Hindi, to much all-around shock and awe. I expected it would be exciting and found a fascination in its mix of Urdu and native tongues, pronunciation, grammar, and literature. I became pretty good in Hindi in those two years and jointly topped the board exam in it. It has remained an area of interest since then.

Something similar happened with maths, with which I struggled throughout my school years. It bothered me, and when I joined my degree course, I vowed enthusiasm in it. Engineering maths is not easy, but there’s enough in its facets to intrigue a curious mind. You can guess that I did more than decently in it.

In later life, there’s been a series of topics that I’ve explored not for courses, certificates or work, but purely for the pleasure of something new for my mind. I went through western classical music, Jazz, western art, philosophy, the World Wars, American history, the lives of Alexander, Napoleon, Churchill, Lincoln, Gandhi, etc., and Indian history. Each would have been an immersion of a year or two. As I am also (mildly) obsessive-compulsive, these explorations included collecting books and materials (e.g., for classical music, I have a comprehensive collection of now unused CDs, lossless digital versions and books that cover everything from plainchant to Vaughan Williams).

In most cases, the learning enabled me to appreciate the works and actors, but I became an amateur exponent in some cases, e.g., philosophy and writing.

Even when it’s been for enjoyment, I’ve not become just a gourmand. I find that deeply knowing many things makes my work and life easier and more fun. Everything is connected in our world, and I am frequently surprised by the constructed serendipities of being a polymath. (Although I’ve never liked the word polymath much, as it has a supercilious air and implies more than it should, especially when used for oneself. Perhaps we should mint a new word for it, like “gourmind”. How about that? All right, let’s use it.)

Being a ‘gourmind’ has enhanced my life in several ways. I know there are other inveterate travellers of the mind like me in this vast world, and they may agree that gourminds:

  1. Need never let a conversation flag as there is always something to spin off from a dying topic.
  2. Catch and enjoy the referential jokes and analogies in movies and TV serials.
  3. Need never get bored as we always have something to dig deeper into or something new to look forward to.
  4. Can mentally think and act fast in most situations as we know the basics and instantly see the big picture of patterns, possibilities and outcomes.
  5. Can interlace multiple simultaneous threads of activity (even while being ‘in the moment’ for each).
  6. Can be better communicators and influencers.
  7. Can hope for delayed senility.

In general, things probably come easier to gourminds.

If you are a fellow gourmind or would like to be one, drop us a comment below.

Right then, on to the next lip-smacking quest. Let’s see, what do I know little about? Hmm, why are the Jews such a distinct people? Where did they come from, and what is their history? Now that should be interesting, beyond what we know from the Old Testament.

Au revoir. I am off!


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