Today I was at Barnes & Noble. Usual Saturday afternoon hanging out looking for books in the math section. I found one that looked really interesting. Number Theory by George E. Andrews.
This evening I ended up talking to a few people about my enjoyment of this book. One commented that I seem to be jumping a few years ahead of where I'm currently at considering that I have never really taken calculus. I really enjoyed the chapter about "fundamentals of congruences". See, I've been trying to learn more about cryptography and congruences and their notation are very important to understanding it.
The interesting thing I noted however was the attitude some other took with my reading material. There were two people at two different times that told me that the book should be burned. Those who know me would probably appreciate that I really like books and the thought of getting rid of any books, let alone destroying them, is one I don't entertain often. As an example I cite my copies of the Turbo C 1.0 and Borland C 4.0 programmers references I still have.
I find it most interesting that the response to unfamiliar information would be to destroy it. One person even called it a "Horrible book". Granted, it's not exactly light reading, but I found there was pressure to not find it enjoyable. It's an attitude I don't really understand. So many people that I know have a tendency to say "I would never be able to understand that" anytime something unfamiliar comes up. It's too bad... It's a very limiting way of dealing with the world.
My tendency to try and understand the things I come in contact with have lead me to where I am today. Jumping in with curiosity has made me a good programmer and sysadmin. Taking the attitude that unfamiliar things are chances to find new and interesting things is the direct reason why I'm even thinking about things that make number theory necessary to understand.
The other day I told my brother Byron that I like learning things that bend my mind. Learning lisp did that. Now, learning about cryptography and number theory is doing it. A mind has to bend to allow something new and different to fit into it.
Perhaps that's the trouble with people who spurn the idea of learning new things... They don't want to let their minds bend and change to allow for new thoughts. I suppose then that they are just trying to help me avoid the pain they associate with trying to understand new things.