Erwin Rowell displays unusual genius. His path leads him to believe that the impossible may be possible after all. Come on Erwin?s journey in The Rule of Squares and find what can happen when the curiously motivated follow their dreams.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.97(d)|
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War. The lowest level mankind can lower itself to. Murder and destruction taken to the highest most manic level, fueled by greed and an unwillingness to compromise. Heinous violence on a level that dwarfs street crime or even mass murderers. The victims of war always include the innocent: the young, the elderly, women and children. War is largely an endeavor of the male sex. Are women entirely innocent? By no means, but they are disproportionately victimized by war rather than propagating it.
War. It's prevalence in mankind's past is as old as mankind itself. There have been too many wars to count throughout history. War is even justified in holy books of the world's various religions. War is glorified in history books. Who are a nation's heroes? Its warriors, of course. George Washington, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Stalin, Eisenhower.
If war is so terrible, then why doesn't the human race in all its wisdom and development figure out how to stop the practice of war? Because greed and long-standing conflicts are just more powerful than the grotesque spectacle of war. War is not only glorified by the blood lust that exists in many human beings, but it is big business. As Eisenhower warned in 1960 as he left office, the military-industrial complex is so powerful, such a steamroller of mammoth momentum, that war is likely to be on the agenda for warring nations for virtual eternity. Virtual eternity is a little different than eternity though. Because war destroys, it is technically possible for this particular industrial complex to misplay its trump card and terminate itself. Time will tell ...
Erwin continued to ponder. He had pondered this subject his entire life. He grew up watching the spectacle of war on television and would ask his mother "Why?" She couldn't give him satisfying answers. She tried, but Erwin was a bright child and his why, how, who, where and what questions eventually tired her.
Erwin Rowell grew up as a relatively normal child in Hickory, North Carolina, but he was brighter than most kids. He was brighter than his brother Isaac, and they were different in many ways. Erwin was content to excel in school and play in sports after school for fun. Isaac Rowell was bright, too, but in very different ways than Erwin. Isaac was musical on most any instrument he picked up. But he didn't excel in the classroom and his parents tried to understand why. His attention span wasn't so good in the classroom and he got into trouble. In-school and out of school suspensions followed. He disappointed his parents greatly when he quit school after the eleventh grade, not seeing the point in continuing. He was seventeen at the time. He moved to Asheville and joined a rock band. He had to put forth effort to avoid jail.
The older Erwin got, the more the intellectual gap widened between him and those around him. Sometimes that made him a target for bullying in school. He had done nothing wrong that he could tell. But the other kids would sometimes pick on him because it was becoming obvious that Erwin was just smarter than they were. And that meant that he was different. And that meant he got picked on. Tripped up walking down the aisle and laughed at. Called mean names. Full scale beat up in school twice. The principal did something about it the first time but the second time Erwin got suspended from school just for being the victim of aggression. Erwin and both his parents argued that this was unfair but it was to no avail.
This had an effect on Erwin. He began to mistrust authority's ability to mete out justice fairly. As he learned more about the history of war as he got older, he began to equate fighting with war. If people fight on the one or two or three person level and can't talk out the problem without physical violence, then what is to keep people from violence at a higher level?
By high school, Erwin knew he was different. The other boys played video games in which killing was the game, but Erwin was repulsed by these games. Other boys talked about joining the military so they could be armed to the teeth and go out and kill enemies of the state. It just gave them a chance to kill. Which was cool, just like in their video games. Not cool to Erwin.
Erwin looked at life as a gift. He saw the entirety of the living world of plants and animals and was in awe of its beauty and diversity. Its intricacy fascinated him. As the world evolved and mankind continued to extract natural resources at an alarming, exponentially increasing rate, Erwin loved nature even more. It was a disappearing commodity. While Erwin was fascinated by the power of digital technology, he actually valued the natural world even more. Even though, he found himself learning about the natural world more cruising the internet than actually going out and discovering nature for himself. You know, getting out in the woods and getting your hands dirty. As time went by Erwin found himself becoming obsessed with fact acquisition. Was this becoming an addiction? How much time was he spending cruising the net to simply acquire more knowledge? Trivia. Explanations. Opinions. Wikipedia.
But he did enjoy himself when he went outdoors and marveled at the wonder of nature. And part of the wonder of nature was the opposite sex. Girls.
When he was nine he wanted a girlfriend. He was mesmerized by girls. And scared to death of them. He wanted Patrice to be his girlfriend. And then Alena. And then Deidre. But they weren't interested in him. They were attracted to the more outgoing, athletic types. Erwin was rather shy. Not completely introverted, but he was scared to speak to the girls. He was afraid they would reject him. Erwin eventually got over this, but it would be many years past the age of nine before Erwin could claim to have found a "girlfriend". There were plenty of years of masturbation that happened for this scared soul before he was able to share an actual physical experience with a female sex partner. And then there was his religion: he was a Christian and aspired to abstinence before marriage even though he knew that was going to be difficult in a world in which premarital sex was the norm. As a matter of fact, did he know anybody that waited until they were married before having sex?
By the time Erwin entered high school, he had begun to separate himself academically from the crowd. In math, he was at the top of his class and this was the advanced class. In science, he got it all seemingly the first time. His command of the language arts and the social studies was very high. He wasn't as interested in Language Arts, but his grasp of spelling and grammar was impeccable- just more algorithms that he got lock tight and fast.
As a high school freshman, at the dinner table one evening, Erwin's mother Emily and father Dan broached the subject of Erwin possibly attending the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham.
"Erwin, have you ever heard of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham?" his mother asked him.
"Who hasn't heard of the School of Science and Math?" Erwin replied.
"Your mother doesn't need a smart aleck response to an honest question," his father interjected.
"My teachers AND the counselors tell me about the place all the time and I've been through the website upside down and sideways. I could teach a class on NCSSM," Erwin informed them.
This type of response had become the norm that Emily and Dan had gotten used to. Their son was a factoid. He enjoyed reading books, but the internet was his constant companion. It was just too tempting for him. He wanted to know so much. The internet had it all it seemed. This kid learned in school x amount of knowledge and discovered for himself 100x amount of knowledge off the internet. Whether it was actual fact or truthiness or propaganda or whatever is on the web, he was tuned in and his obsession with the web was only increasing.
The North Carolina School of Science and Math was founded for the elite student. The average "A" kid didn't get into this school. The superlative student had a shot at getting in. As a tenth grader, Erwin and his parents visited the school and he felt at home there in a way he had never before experienced. He got to meet students. These weren't like the people in his hometown. These were nerds, geeks, intellects. Not all of them came across as nerdy. Some were very socially adept, outgoing people. But they all seemed to have one thing in common: they were very intelligent. Erwin wondered what it would be like to be around people like that all the time. People that actually wanted to be in school to gain as much knowledge as they could in their field of interest.
Riding down I-40 back to Hickory, Erwin let his parents know how he felt.
"I want to go to this school, mom and dad."
"How do you think you will do being away from home?" Dan asked pointedly.
Erwin hadn't exactly thought that through. He was comfortable at home. His parents had a stable marriage. Home life was good. He was loved. Being away at school three hours down the road would be different and his gut was that it wouldn't be a good kind of different.
"Will I be able to come home on the weekends?"
"From what I gathered that can occur sometimes and sometimes not. Kind of a mixed bag depending on what kind of weekend activities or field trips are planned," Emily said.
"When is the application due?" Erwin asked.
"The school admissions rep said January 15. So you have some time to think about it," Emily said.
"OK." And think about it I will, Erwin decided.
Thinking was something that Erwin did. A lot. It was becoming a good thing and a bad thing. It was good in that he was developing ideas sprung from ideas that created eye opening epiphanies. It was bad in that he sometimes just wore himself out with thinking. "You think too much" a kid in school told him. You could see it in Erwin's eyes and eyebrows. He began to view himself as very different from those around him. Their interests were so different from his. He sought out knowledge and facts. And he loved to read, fiction and non-fiction, but especially non-fiction. He loved nature and would take walks in the woods, but he always thought he would enjoy walking in the woods more if he were walking with a girl that he had a mutual attraction with. There was a bookish girl in his humanities class, Teresa, that he asked if she would join him for ice cream and a walk in the park. She turned him down. Was he unattractive? He didn't think so, but he felt rejected and uncertain nonetheless. He kept hoping his time would come soon. His interest in girls was growing very steadily. He had hit puberty and he thought about girls a lot. And that was what pushed him ultimately to decide that if he were accepted to the NCSSM, then he would accept the invitation because he felt he would meet more girls there that would accept him.
Erwin attended Hickory High School through the tenth grade. He got his acceptance letter to the school of Science and Math in March of his sophomore year. He continued to excel academically but his mind was on what was next. He was uneasy about being away from home, but he was excited about the academic opportunities and people he would meet at NCSSM.
He completed tenth grade with few friends and no girlfriend and looked forward to August when he would enroll at NCSSM. Summer dragged on in the humid North Carolina heat and then he packed his bags and off he and his parents rolled to Durham for what would be a big step in Erwin's life.
The North Carolina School of Science and Math is about 680 students from all over the state. No dummies in the group. A small high school with only a junior and senior class. They bring in a myriad of interests but one thing they all have in common: they are highly proficient in science and/or math, probably both. But one dimensional they are not. They are a surprisingly diverse group. Rich kids, poor kids, all races and lots of different life experiences, talents, and interests.
The curriculum and academic rigor at this school is superior. Research requirements in scientific and mathematical fields. Many advance course offerings in science and math. And things move fast: it is a trimester system, squeezing in a semester's worth of knowledge in about twelve weeks instead of the fifteen in a semester system. The school is surprisingly strong in the language arts, humanities, arts, foreign languages (Chinese-unusual for North Carolina), and athletics. This is a small super-school for super students, all tuition free.
Classes began in August. It is hot and humid in Durham. Near Duke University. Kind of a rough end of town actually. But the campus is self-contained and well secured, so if you stay on campus you feel safe. Erwin's roommate was an Indian kid from Raleigh named Tamir. Tamir was a computer geek and an avid soccer player and fan. He was friendly but somewhat arrogant in that he was quick to establish that he was from a bigger city and more affluence than Erwin. That didn't bother Erwin. Erwin was confident about his academic ability. He hadn't met anybody yet who was as strong academically as he was.
That all changed on day one at this new school. The academic rigor and pace were very different than what he was used to in Hickory. Not that there weren't bright kids at Hickory High. But at this school all the kids were bright and some used vocabulary that Erwin wasn't familiar with and knew parts of the web that Erwin had not discovered yet. Their interests were so different from the kids he grew up around and the intensity with which they pursued these interests surprised Erwin.
Intimidated, Erwin worked hard to keep up in his classes. D was the failing grade at NCSSM, not F. And A's were not going to be easy to get here. He found himself working harder than ever before but he found himself becoming engrossed in the experience. The harder he worked, the smarter he felt, and he blossomed. His desire and wholesale motivation was at an all-time high. Speaking of high, Tamir said he knew a kid that had some pot and asked Erwin if he wanted to smoke some. Erwin knew kids that smoked pot at Hickory, but he had never had an interest in trying it. Some of the kids that smoked marijuana still did well in school and it didn't seem to sidetrack them. Others that smoked it were burnouts and headed nowhere. Here at SSM there were no burnouts. Why not try it?
One Friday night Erwin and Tamir found their way to the deserted soccer field and they smoked pot out of a glass pipe the other student had. His name was Cullen. He was geeky but from the city (Charlotte?) and he said he smoked pot often and it was no big deal. Erwin pulled on the pipe and inhaled. He immediately started coughing. What a strange taste. Exotic. He took another couple of pulls on the pipe and did not cough the last time. Within several minutes, Erwin started to feel his feet lift off the ground and he couldn't stop smiling. This felt good! They walked around campus and eventually ended up back at the dorm. The conversation in the group went to places that Erwin had never been before. In-depth arguments about the mechanics of things they studied in class. In-depth evaluations of the girls they were in class with and how they were going to do something about these girls. Mind-expanding views exchanged about the world today and the world tomorrow and how it was going to get there. Overall, Erwin was surprised. This wasn't the evil weed that school leaders and his parents told him it would be. This was an experience that pushed his mind to places it had never been before. Emotions were intensified. His desire for sex intensified. His viewpoint on many local, national, and international issues took an alternative, expanded stance. This was interesting.
But what would his parents, pastor, and Jesus think about him smoking pot? His parents would be disappointed. They said pot was bad. His pastor would urge him to cease smoking pot, stating that he could be spending his time serving the Lord instead. And Jesus? Jesus never mentioned pot in the gospels. Maybe it didn't exist in his world.
Further intrigued, Erwin researched marijuana on the web. There was a lot. Studying medical sites, Erwin concluded that infrequent use of marijuana was probably not going to affect him adversely. However, he found much on the web that suggested that regular use of marijuana by adolescents (he was 17 at the time) stunted emotional development and created other problems associated with brain development. Not to mention that smoking anything wasn't good for your lungs. He hated being in a room filled with cigarette smoke and had never wanted to smoke cigarettes. He concluded that it wouldn't kill him if he smoked pot again, but that it should be only on special occasions. He was getting regular epiphanies just having a brain that ran naturally in overdrive anyway. He didn't need a new habit that was dangerous to some degree to expand his horizons. And besides, it was illegal. That scared him. If he got caught, what would that do to his future? If he did it again, he would be discreet.
Excerpted from "The Rule of Squares"
Copyright © 2017 Cam Campbell.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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