I believe in intellectual orgasms. Some may call it “ah-ha” moments, or moments when “the light bulb turns on.” I think it is more than an ah-ha, more than a light bulb turning on. It is my mind stimulating my body – it is transient moment of bliss. That is why I go so far as to say that it is an intellectual orgasm. Before you think I’m crazy, let me explain. They can come from within, from other people, and I’m not the only one that has them. They are times at which I am so intellectually stimulated that I cannot stop smiling or thinking. Intellectual orgasms are the main reasons for which I am still in school and for which I am doing well in school. They are the reason I love to facilitate calculus workshops, they are the reason for which I want to spend the rest of my life learning. I strive for them, look for them, I crave them.
I first realized that I was able to have an intellectual orgasm when I was taking calculus my freshman year in college. I came across an exceptionally challenging word problem. After many minutes of frustration and drawing pictures and writing down possible equations, it suddenly clicked! My heart was pounding; I began furiously scribbling the answer and then proceeded to check it carefully. When I was done I was so happy that I could not stop smiling. I had had my first intellectual orgasm. Now, don’t get me wrong, these intellectual orgasms only get better with time. Since then, they have intensified. Just two weeks ago, I had another one. I was writing my senior thesis, and as I was writing, I was consumed by my writing, and when I awoke from my trance, I reread what I had written and it was exactly what I had been thinking, exactly what I had wanted to say. The ability to use language precisely – to articulate exactly what I wanted to say – oh, it felt so good. It was exhilarating. I felt the constraints of language lifted. I had had an intellectual orgasm.
But remember, these orgasms don’t just come from within. They can also come from listening to what other people have to say. When I read the quote by Rabbi Gordon, “Love is not blind — it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” My brain felt tingly, my eyes widened and I felt alive. It was exactly what I had felt at the time about love but hadn’t by myself found the words to express. This also happens when I read descriptive poetry. Pablo Neruda, in his description of the intimacy his romantic relationships, said, “Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to my vague memory of you.” Those types of descriptions, those which surpass the limitations of time and space and reach into the depths of my soul to capture how I feel – those are the feelings I strive for.
I also see these intellectual orgasms happen in the students I tutor, particularly for calculus. When I have explained a concept such as partial derivatives and the scattered elusive concept finally comes together in a crystallized picture, I see it in their eyes, in their spirit. They understand, and it feels oh so good. These moments are moments I strive for. They are addicting, exhilarating and surreal. I love them.
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