Thursday, January 06, 2011


A long time ago, when I was young and impressionable, I was a fan of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

I've talked about this before.  But, truth be told, I didn't really play the game as much as study it.  I pored over the rules, the statistics, the tables.  Some things seemed ridiculous and unnecessary, like the brief descriptions of forms of insanity characters could be afflicted with (this was the first place I heard of hebephrenia), the explanations of various forms of gambling, or the list of unique magical artifacts and their properties.  (The likelihood of encountering Baba Yaga's Hut in any given game seemed pretty slim.)

One of the things I encountered in the rulebooks was the non-player character class known as the Sage.  Sages didn't do much other than know things.  They studied and amassed knowledge.  Those that you were likely to encounter in the game were the sort who would live in great castles or small huts surrounded by books, scrolls, and other appropriate information storage systems.  Sages might be expository devices who could be consulted to get critical information for an upcoming adventure, or they could actually be the driving force behind that adventure, hiring the characters to locate and retrieve some long-lost scroll or arcane tome.

A guy.  Living alone, surrounded by books.  Driven by a quest for knowledge.  Valued by others for the things he knew.

That's what I wanted to be.

I'm partway there.  I've got the big house that I live in alone.  I've got the books, both in numerous bookcases and scattered in boxes waiting to be placed on bookcases that have yet to be assembled.  I even have one of those TV-and-typewriter gizmos that uses a telephone line to connect me to a universe of information and disinformation.

Now, if I could just find a way to turn a profit from this, I'll be in business.  Literally.

Leonardo da Vinci was pretty much the template for this class.  But even he had to whore himself out to wealthy nobles, designing weapons and city defenses and taking commissions of paintings on the walls of churches and even the occasional portrait to earn his daily bread.  Galileo, another figure in this mold, earned his living as a professor and sometime writer, much to his personal detriment.

I don't think I'd be able to find any wealthy nobles in this area willing to pay me for my artistic and engineering expertise, if I had any.  Becoming a teacher of some sort is a more reasonable possibility.  But my options in this area are somewhat limited, and are circumscribed by some of the life choices I have made.  My original plan, twenty-some years ago, was to earn a Master's degree in Physics and then quickly move through a Ph.D. program with the ultimate goal not to become a great theoretician or experimentalist, but instead to become a writer of books on science intended for a general audience.  Unfortunately my plan was derailed shortly after completion of my B.S., and I was steered onto a path that has led to twenty years of experience in various positions in what can be described as "medium tech" manufacturing facilities, making solar cells and CDs and DVDs. 

I never did get a Master's degree - something that is considered a minimum requirement even to teach at the local community college.  But I did get a house in which to surround myself with books.  My highest priority now is to hold onto that house, to be able to keep paying the mortgage and the taxes and all the associated bills.  The major problem with that at this moment is the loss of my job.  I need to find another job, and soon.  The option of bettering myself through education is available, but I don't know how practical it is in my case:  I doubt that the state would pay for me to get a Master's degree.  Some programs exist to pay for getting a teaching certificate, but they require a period of service in an inner-city school as a form of payback - something that doesn't sound compatible with my plan to not lose the house I currently own.

No path is clear from here.  I've got my goals and priorities laid out.  Now I need a way of making them happen.  I'll keep working on that.  Hey, if I'm really a Sage in the making, I should be able to think of something.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

I really like this idea! I think you'd be great at it.