On first viewing my special interests would appear broad. They wax and wane in magnitude, but never truly disappear even if the empowering desire for a particular subject dissipates. They dictate introspection and anticipation, fuelling a dream-like state of being compared to daily living. I have several augmenting long term interests that I alternate between at the moment, but never more than 1 or 2 at any given time. I will jump from interest to interest within a circle of interests which can last a day or several months, it will last as long as my attention span (which can be incredibly erratic) allows it to. The topics in question are as such that I am able to endorse an interest despite getting a bit bored of a specific subject within it.
The ongoing broad topics will always exist, but during a state of captivation, it will be an interest within an interest occupying a single minded fascination, which can incorporate the T34 tank from world war two, the planet mars, saxophones, the Ducati 916, the moon, trenches of world war one, organ music, and afterwards the general theory of relativity. During conversation I can dictate facts from these topics with robotic utterance, only displaying the facts which are subconsciously engrossing to me, possibly missing out imperative information with my focus being on specific moments in history, objects or statistics/literature.
I can research and expose myself heavily to the point of mental fatigue, then move to the next project, one at a time. The trigger can be a television documentary, conversation, picture, sound, dream or related experience. I can either follow an obsession to the end or snap out of it and move straight onto the next one, depending on the previously stated provocation.
Currently music, astronomy and motorcycles are my main interests with an immeasurable desire to obtain information and knowledge like an intellectual urge, providing me with a mental rush, allowing me to filter out the random chaos created by people and society. My brain has requirements for different types of knowledge which can be broken down into sensory, factual and experience. Some interests cover several avenues of knowledge in this respect, others may only cover one.
They can also be divided into primary and secondary interests. Primary interests presently dominate my psyche, secondary interests used to be primary but are their intensity is limited unless exposed directly to a trigger, for example viewing a large oak tree and in turn causing a temporary but primary condition.
On the contrary to stereotype, I am not a complete expert at any one of my interests, more like a jack of several trades, good at many, master at none. But still, I am far more knowledgeable than the average Joe about the topics in question, and I know deep down if I had the attention span to concentrate on one or two, discarding the others; I probably would become a master. I am impulsive in my intellectual feeding frenzies, when my brain is in awe as a consequence of being exposed to a trigger, everything else is insignificant. As mentioned before the different interests satisfy different areas of knowledge and below is a summary of my special interests as far back as memory allows. A percentage score has been included to reflect how much each type of input is satisfied. I have an inflated drive for factual consumption, certain types of sensory input and a personal paradigm of experience appropriate for my needs.
Sierra cosworths Sensory 15%, Factual 60% Experience 25%
This started when I was around 7-8 years old. My father had a Ford Sierra saloon, and he once took me to a rally meeting. I believe the first car I saw there was a shell oil sponsored sierra, and it was that first visual experience which was the trigger.
I bought two toy models with pocket money and I would bring them into school and play with them in the playground mostly on my own, but sometimes I would play this game in the schoolyard called ‘the parking game’ it became a routine every lunchtime and then a couple of other kids asked to join in. We used to roll them down a gentle gradient and the ones that got the closest to a fixed point won. I would experiment by adding weight for extra momentum, and putting blue tack on the rear axel to slow it down. I would pressure my mum to go to retail outlets to see if they had new toy sierra cosworths, most of the time they didn’t.
I used to have knowledge about the engine capacity, top speed; amongst other useless facts and figures about them I still have those two cars, in a sorry state regarding the paintwork but a sacred part of my innocent youth. It was the shape; combined with that initial exposure to that rally car, combined with the fact my dad had a saloon version which sustained the obsession. Soon after he discarded it for a new car the obsession disappeared.
Astronomy/cosmology Sensory 20%, Factual 70% Experience 10%
I was around 10 years old when this fascination arose, I fail to remember why it began, but possibly it was when I first saw my grandfather’s old pair of binoculars. I used to read many books by Patrick Moore and my teacher was taken aback when we did a class topic on space. I used to explain to her facts about who designed the V2 rocket, the first man in space, what powered the sun, the distance of the earth from the sun and how far the moon was from the earth. I was knowledgeable about the planets regarding their order, size and number of moons. I also knew what a black hole was. Most of these facts she didn’t even know! The school library only contained two books about space which the whole class had to share, but I had around 10-15 in my collection and brought them all in.
This fascination faded to a secondary interest over the next decade. It has come back with a vengeance recently, with subjects such as atheism, evolution of life, string theory and general theory relativity becoming a huge part of it as well. I’m a big fan of the late astronomer Carl Sagan and his works, which tie in perfectly with this fascination.
I can be engrossed in literature, view documentaries (factual) or just sit there and gaze at the stars (sensory & experience). Always something new to learn.
Nintendo 64 Sensory 0%, Factual 10% Experience 90%
I was the only one in my class who owned this video game console, everyone else had a Sony Playstation, spent most of my spare time at secondary school playing on this, and became rather skilful on many of the games, to other people's annoyance, it became the basis of my life during sixth form, as well as weight training.
Trees Sensory 50%, Factual 20% Experience 30%
This one didn’t last long, I had a dream a few years ago which I remember quite vividly based on the video game Donkey Kong Country. I was living in a tree house based community; we never touched the ground, living exclusively in the treetops. I then started reading about trees, saw a picture of the general Sherman redwood tree in America, the most massive organism in the world, and was amazed. It was only specific species of tree that I became interested in, this was almost entirely based on their appearance. The shape of Redwood, Oak, Ash, horse chestnut and bonsai trees will never leave my mind, the shape of the leaves, the texture of the trunk, the way they grow to receive more light depending on their surroundings. These aspects fascinated me more than the scientific details, hence why sensory and experience both score quite high.
I naively chose to do a Higher National Diploma on countryside management because I believed I would be in contact with more trees. Sadly this course was mostly theoretical causing me to become disinterested, realising I was just obsessed with observing them, admiring their predictable static form, the patterns, the curves and in awe of their age. I still admire old trees, but I am not transfixed like previously. I will still stop for a few minutes to observe an ancient oak and zone in on its details. I do have a huge concern about the destruction of ancient woodland and the rainforest, like a subconscious hardwiring that occurred during this phase. A horse chestnut tree got chopped down last year at a local park, and I was incredibly distressed when I saw the stump.
Weight training/nutrition Sensory 5%, Factual 35% Experience 60%
This was definitely an obsession rather than a fascination; it developed during my response to teasing, to be strong enough to stand up to them physically. As it developed onwards, I become aware that this could be the ultimate source of routine. I could plan the times of my workout, what I exercises I do every day, how many repetitions and how many sets I do for each exercise. I had a notebook with each two hour workout; I timed myself doing each exercise within a set time, having a specific order. If someone was using the equipment I was planning to use next, I would attempt to take it in turns, or just use passive aggressive influence to get them to hurry up, such as standing next to the machine huffing and puffing. When I used to skip classes during college I would go to the gym or my bedroom for a workout.
I did 5 workouts per week which lasted roughly ninety minutes; the endorphin rush afterwards was quite pleasant. I ended up seventeen stone with 15% body fat (I am now twelve stone and ten pounds, with a slight beer gut). My diet became very strict; I planned to consume certain foods at certain times of the day, with an incredibly disciplined balance of nutrition. This sense of routine and personal discipline made me feel safe and healthy which helped me stay mentally stable proving a solution to my other problems, like a personal sanctuary shielding me from the unpredictable outside world whilst releasing my anger. I still do weights but only three 30 minute sessions a week, just to stick to a routine as that is something I need. My diet is still bland and systematic as I eat exactly the same food at exactly the same time every single day, just less excessive, although I will eat my mums cooking on Christmas day.
Motorcycles Sensory 30%, Factual 20% Experience 50%
This started when I was in need of transportation and eventually became obsessed with classic British motorcycles. The following passage describes my riding experience from my perspective:
She stood in the darkened alleyway, with just the ethereal glow of a sodium street lamp casting rippling highlights across her projection. I reached out with trembling hands. She was still warm, inviting… I straddled her, whispered how much I needed her today, and how I was going to ride her. So saying, I couldn't contain my libido any more; fingers shaking, I guided them to my pocket and extracted the precautionary measure; then I arched over her and inserted my ignition key. She resisted, she grumbled but eventually spluttered into life.
When riding I am completely in contact with it all...the process and experience of riding, and the environment of the road, and the beautiful scenery engulfs the senses, and the need for constant awareness fills the mind, blocking out all the stresses and strains of modern life, a passing glimpse of nature by direct experience that no routine car journey can ever provide.
With the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes... then the music starts, fear becomes exhilaration, the only sounds are the wind and the roar floating back from the exhausts, filling every possible sensory part of my body. Riding is tiring, exhilarating, adventurous, and sensual, accidents happen, and it has its ups and downs. Am I substituting a human being for a motorcycle?
There are some motorcycles I cannot stand, (overweight Harley Davidson’s and screaming inline four bikes, the most popular genres just don’t appeal to me, just like the majority of people don’t appeal to me, only a select few I choose to admire, they have to display the correct character, charm, shape, sound and soul.
World wars 1 & 2 Sensory 25%, Factual 70% Experience 5%
I think it was the TV comedy black adder goes forth that was based in the trenches of WW1 that started my fascination, and then from then on world war two. I tend not to be too fascinated in the general history, although I am aware of a lot of the facts. Regarding the First World War I am just fascinated by the method of trench warfare, particularly the battle of the Somme and do a lot of research into the concept when my brain decides it is ‘in the zone’. Regarding world war two I am fascinated by certain battles and machines (particularly the T34 & tiger tanks, the spitfire and the mustang for their shape, sound and importance, I have seen them in action and the sound, sight, shape and smell all have an effect). I often ponder on what it would be like to be on the battlefield during that specific time period, visualising and acting out battles in my head using those machines in question, not that I would want to be there for real of course. This is now a secondary interest.
Psychology Sensory 5%, Factual 40% Experience 55%
After bad experiences involving associates just over a year ago, I was beginning to question why I behave so differently to peers and unable to ‘fit in’. I conducted research into learning, anxiety and behavioral problems and came across Asperger’s Syndrome. I researched, and considered other psychological conditions such as the various personality disorders, but the original theory stood its ground. When I was at a low point after yet another misunderstanding a few months ago, I realised I needed to know for definite.
Ever since I have been reading forums, books and other online articles, allowing me to relate to their content almost perfectly, it has allowed me to perform a self diagnosis literally because it makes so much sense. The experience percentage is high simply because I am certain I have a condition and experience it in real-time. In the future I want to interact with other people sharing this condition, to learn further and appreciate the fact I am not alone. These factors alone have provided that drive which in turn has imprinted on my brain. After my necessary research this has now become a secondary interest, but I have been left aware of many aspects of psychology and will passively seek to further my knowledge where possible.
Music Sensory 65%, Factual 5% Experience 30%
This my main interest sharing top spot with astronomy for several different reasons, as mentioned in another article titled ‘what makes my brain tick’
I took up the Cello was I was 7 years old as a curiosity. As time passed and with my parent's support I completed several exams in musical theory and practice. When I was 15 and after years of ridicule from some of the popular kids at secondary school I decided I wanted to learn percussion instead. At the time I wanted something to hit in order to release frustration, and eventually it totally replaced the Cello, which I eventually gave up. I was asked to join a band after my sister told them how good I was, but after several misunderstandings and miscommunications I was told to leave; I lost confidence in my ability and gave up after a 4 year spurt.
Eventually I just sat around on my bed plucking away at my sister’s spare bass guitar. I realised actually I am rather skilful at this, being the perfect blend between the musicianship of the Cello and the rhythmic dynamics of percussion. In effect it was as though I had been playing this instrument for at least 10 years, with just the technical side to perfect. When my sister left a covers band and I was asked to join, they were amazed at my ability. People ask me how long I have been playing and they accuse me of lying to them. I enjoy playing the bass guitar with the band I am in, but it isn’t as dynamic an instrument on its own, hence why I am about to take up the saxophone, partly because I am transfixed by the sound. I am able to mentally practice musical instruments, visualising which notes/strings I am producing in conjunction to the fret board, figuring out a whole song just in my head. I have a perfect sense of rhythm and perfect pitch as well, being able to whistle any note I am asked (being unable to sing).
In terms of musical consumption, my perception is rather different to most people. I can listen to a piece of music on a loop over an extended time period, but boredom will never arise because every time I listen it is different experience. Blues, jazz, prog rock, metal, new age and classical can all massage my psyche in ways which many people couldn’t comprehend. I constantly have music in my head; there is never a point in my conscious being where music fails to be there. I have also been collecting vinyls after the past few years (I got bored of collecting postcards and needed a new challenge).
People call me ignorant and arrogant when I claim to be a musical nut despite not being aware of half the bands they have. Try living in my world where even half of those bands are not required when a song can be improvised or created just using your own mind, or experience totally different form of sensory and emotional stimulation after each listen. I can cry, I can have a mental orgasm, and experience huge tingling rush down my spine, limbs and face all at the same time. If I wasn’t a dreadful procrastinator there is every chance I could have made career out of it.
To conclude this interest, my obsession with genres can alternate as well, I used to be transfixed with thrash metal, the aggression really coincided with frustration towards many people, I collected relevant vinyl’s, putting them in order of date released, although now they are in order of album title. I am definitely mellower now; music constantly defines my sense of being and my state of mind and long may it continue.