In grad school, I had a professor named Norman Nagel. He was known as one of the finest minds in our institution. His classes would fill with those students who wanted a challenging experience and interesting lectures. I took one class with good ole Norm. I audited it because he was also known as a difficult grader and I wanted to watch my fellow student suffer. I’m cruel that way.
To say Norman was a bit unusual is like saying the Pacific Ocean is a decent sized body of water. For starters, he was Australian. Now before any of you Aussies get upset, I love Australian accents. Nagel had the disadvantage of going to school in England. The resulting accent was somewhere between Cambridge and Adelaide. The real entertainment came from his lecture style. Norman had the uncanny ability to lecture with his eyes closed. Not a big deal if you remain behind the podium or at the desk. Such simplicity was not Nagelian. Norman would walk back and forth, pacing wildly, sharing the vast storehouse of knowledge in his beautiful mind, WITH HIS EYES CLOSED. He would get within an inch or two of hitting his protruding proboscis on the plaster and stop, turn, and head back the other direction… on a good day. There would be times when the professor would be so caught up in the lecture, his legs would forget to move. He would reach the wall, stop, and keep speaking inches away from the wall… for half the class.
To be kind, I would say that Professor Nagel was eccentric. An unkind student would call him weird. I liked Nagel because of his eccentricities. There are many people who I would describe as eclectic, eccentric or weird. The eclectic people I know have curious taste in décor, demeanor and dance moves. I have a buddy who can combine the rumba, cha-cha and samba into a unique combination of moves that resembles a cobra eating a wildebeest while having a grand mal seizure. I honestly don’t thank he knows any of those dances, but he says he does.
There are also people I know who fit the weird category. You know the friends I’m talking about. You always want them at the party because they will say or do something that will be the topic of conversation for the next seven parties. “Do you remember when Bertha ate the goldfish from Bill’s fish tank? Who knew she had a sushi craving?” I seem to attract the weird friends. My friends claim that they are normal and I’m the weird one. I disagree.
I like to think of myself as eccentric. It means “off of center”. That pretty well describes me. My dad called it “half a bubble off plum”. My grandma called it “pretty damned odd”. Call it what you want, in my not so humble opinion, eccentric is a kind way of saying weird. You need a certain level of intellect, talent, money or power to be eccentric instead of weird. Prince was eccentric. Michael Jackson was eccentric. Norman Nagel was eccentric. (See what I mean about a kind way of saying weird?)
I strive to be eccentric. My friends may be right. Perhaps I’m just weird. Oh well. I like being me, so let the world call me what it will. I’m dubbing myself eccentric even though I don’t even meet the self-imposed standards I created. But doesn’t that make me eccentric all by itself?