I Want to Be an Anthropologist

That might just be the most INFJ thing I’ve ever said.

The creators of BBC’s Sherlock have said that their Sherlock is so different because they were looking at the canon and seeing how Sherlock Holmes is a man ahead of his times. Other Sherlock adaptations weren’t like that. They were all trapped in an era far gone, in a world where scientists believed that cells were blobs of protoplasm. And that’s just not fair to Sherlock, because Sherlock is on the cutting edge of science.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also wrote a book called The Lost World, in which a scientist sets out to prove that there is a place in South America where prehistoric animals still thrive. I read it recently and… it’s a cool story, sure. Dinosaurs still alive in the present age (the book was released in the Strand in 1912) and all that.

But.

It’s definitely a product of 1912. Things like, they (the British protagonists) look down on the locals they hire to carry their equipment. Things like, the large African whom even the amiable narrator trusts to wait for them forever because how could he be anything but stupidly loyal? Things like, when they meet intelligent life on the plateau, their immediate reaction is to turn the cavemen into pack mules, and they’re so confused when one of the cavemen gets insulted by this (shockingly, these cavemen have society and culture and it turns out he’s a prince).

Sometime last year, I posted this to my Instagram:

It just occurred to me that because my edition of [The New Book of Knowledge encyclopedia] is copyrighted 1968, it probably doesn’t even know about computers yet. I’m really fascinated by how people reacted to practical computers. Sure, you can read on Wikipedia that people were hesitant or whatever, but there’s nothing like primary sources.

I read Walt Whitman’s Wikipedia page last night. In school, I was essentially taught that his writing was worthless. And yet he’s my best friend’s favorite poet. I have this conditioned response to be like, “Ugh, Transcendentalism,” but going back now, I’m not sure what’s so awful about him. Except, possibly, for that which would not be named at my school. (Speculation, as Wikipedia admits.)

I watched a Ted Talk called “The Danger of a Single Story” this week. It made me want to read widely, independently. It made me realize the importance not just of primary sources, but of multiple primary sources.

This is an idea that has been fermenting in my brain over the last three months. Another thing my college did was give us literature textbooks (for the survey classes) that had been assembled and edited in-house. I have eight of these textbooks from over the course of high school and college. Our nation’s best literature… edited down to excerpts full of ellipses.

So, here’s my plan: Read as much and as widely as possible in literature from as many places as possible. Because the stories people tell each other are as much a picture of the world as a history textbook, just infinitely more interesting.

A few months ago, I had coffee with a friend of mine, who asked me something to the effect of, “What if you studied Japanese lit in Japanese?” So, in related news, I have been inspired to study my kanji a lot more seriously, because I frickin’ love that idea.

But as I started thinking about it… What’s to stop me from learning Russian to read Tolstoy? Or German to read the Grimm brothers? Or French for Les Mis? I mean, translations are cool and everything, but they can only get you so far.

Maybe I can’t afford to go back to school to get an English lit degree, or an anthropology one, or linguistics, or whatever, but… who’s stopping me from reading?

No one.

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