Are you cringing? The word funner tends to send people off the deep end. But the word runner is fine. And yet beautifuller is a big no.

Why? Something about the way two syllable adjectives pattern. I’m not completely sure.

Welcome to English grammar. It’s really confusing here and lots of super smart people disagree about ideas I don’t understand. Noun phrases still make me cry. So why am I talking about grammar?

Well, I live in Los Angeles County and our Covid-19 numbers have spiked and we are going back to our safer-at-home behaviors. I am stuck at home and I am at loose ends. I have organized all the closets. I have failed at homeschooling. I suck at knitting.

So I am working my way through The Great Courses Plus catalog and I thought I would fall asleep to a course called English Grammar Boot Camp. I don’t like three of the two things in that title. Grammar is confusing and any form of bootcamp is garbage.

Instead, I have been watching this course for hours and a good amount of it makes some sense. I got lost in determiners and skipped the rest of that lecture. I like learning as an adult because my patience level is much higher. When I was young, I would get confused, get angry and assume I had no ability with the subject and move on.

Now I know that I can be good at some aspects of a subject while being incompetent in others. It doesn’t mean I have to drop the subject all together. I love algebra but I suck at geometry. Does that mean I suck at math?

No, it just means some aspects of the umbrella term math are boring and stupid and confusing and others are fascinating and fun to figure out. Just kidding. I’m sure geometry is great. (It’s not.)

When I was a kid, my brother and his wife watched every documentary series PBS had to offer. They particularly loved NOVA.

I would watch TV with them and be amazed. Why were adults who were no longer required to learn anything they didn’t already know learning things they would never need to know?

My brother worked in a warehouse and my sister-in-law was a tax preparer. The age of the universe was never going to come up at their places of business and yet they were fascinated by these shows. When the shows were over they would talk excitedly about what they had learned, sometimes discussing older shows and how this show fit into what they had learned earlier.

My parents did not watch these kinds of shows. They watched Matlock and Golden Girls and Perry Mason and Falcon Crest (the best of the nighttime soaps). Now, my parents weren’t dummies. My mom read as if her life depended on it. My dad would rather mow the lawn and yell at the tree in our front yard than read a book. But he did read a minimum of two newspapers everyday of his life and he watched the news the way other men watched sports. He had strong political opinions. I sometimes think he discussed those opinions with the tree in our front yard since my mom would rather eat glass than talk politics.

So maybe my brother and his wife weren’t so different from my parents. My mom only read fiction but she read in so many different genres that she knew a little bit about a lot of subjects. And, as I said, my dad was a news junkie.

It didn’t occur to me until I was puzzling out the difference between a restrictive relative clause and a nonrestrictive relative clause that my nerd tendencies were a family affair. All my relatives were adult learners.

My cousin watched so much PBS that when I asked her to donate and she said, “Nah, the WM Keck Foundation has it covered,” I said, “If you can make that comment, you watch a huge amount of PBS and should probably donate.”

If my sister doesn’t own stock in The Animal Channel, she should.

Do we ever lose the urge to learn new things? I don’t think so. I think humans can’t help doodling around the edges of their known personal universes. I know a man who works for NASA, studying weather patterns using math that makes my brain cramp up when I see it. He also plays flamenco guitar. And yes, math and music are closely related but that is such a beautiful juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated disciplines that whenever I think about my heart leaps.

I know it isn’t a popular position to take but I like humans. We are so inexplicably weird and wonderful and hilariously funny (I started in on The Great Courses because I became addicted to TikTok) that sometimes I watch people dance or hear them sing or listen to them talk about something they find fascinating and I marvel.

Yes, we’ve ruined the planet and we keep killing each other for no good reason but let’s not forget that we are amazing creatures who, if we can ever get our collective shit together, could be the making of each other.

Also, I just really miss everyone. Stay safe.

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