The Discreet Charm of the 4 8 15 16 23 42

Feeling inexplicably charmed by the dumb idiot who was obsessed with a bunch of people on an island

(For the record: yes, I do still remember The Numbers completely unprompted, years later).

Earlier today I was looking for an old post on this very blog, and as often happens these days, I found myself reading through the adjacent and related posts, trying to make sense of what exactly past me was trying to talk about.

It’s rare that I give past versions of myself any grace at all, so I was surprised by how much I was charmed by the whole uselessness of this website. On top of all the broken image links from a failed server migration years ago, there’s the fact that I was writing posts on the assumption that 1) everybody else was watching or reading the same stuff I was, and 2) I was obligated to be obtuse so as not to spoil it for my “audience.”

As a result, there are just dozens and dozens of posts about Lost and Battlestar Galactica where not only do I have no idea what I was talking about, but they’re so alien to me that they might’ve been written by another person. I was clearly enthralled by whatever storyline happened to be going on at the moment, making oblique references to plot events and throwing out names and descriptions of characters I no longer recognize, that trying to read them now feels somewhere between stumbling onto a complete stranger’s text messages, and the Voynich manuscript.

But instead of smacking my forehead, I’m just happy to see myself so completely engrossed in something, and clearly enjoying it even as I complained about it. And I’m charmed by my naiveté assuming that anyone other than me would be reading it. It’s essentially a private journal trying to pass as a public discussion, meaning it fails at both. But it does survive as something else, an extremely nerdy time capsule.

I do wish that I hadn’t spent so much time in online forums (and soon after, social media) that I was constantly writing on the defensive, filtering every thought and every sentence as if it were opening myself to correction and criticism. I can somewhat place posts at different periods in my life without having to check the dates, not by anchoring them to significant life events, but just by getting a sense of how earnest or how guarded I was being.

And obviously, I wish that they were anchored by significant life events for me, and not a bunch of fictional characters on an island or a spaceship. But that kind of stuff doesn’t really belong on a public blog. And I frankly appreciate the distance from having to read a genuine account of what exactly I was thinking at traumatic or stressful times. It’s a lot more charming to read my younger reactions to stuff happening to Desmond and Penny and Starbuck and Boomer than to myself.

More often than I’d like, I’ll come across a post that’s either mean-spirited or crass, and think “who is this asshole?” But as somebody who tends to behave with the mindset of “Dance like everybody’s not only watching but recording it zoomed-in and broadcasting it live to everyone you care about,” I like the idea of a decades-long record of myself going full-on nerd and getting excited about inconsequential stuff.