“I could feel my mind starting to awaken”

​“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.”

​This is the blurb from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. A friend has been urging me to read it for a long time. Boy, am I glad it did. 

Consider the following passage which describes some of the training Kvothe’s first teacher put him through:

​“Once or twice a day, mixed in with my normal lectures, Ben would present me with a little mental exercise I would have to master before we went on to anything else. He made me play Tirani without a board, keeping track of the stones in my head. Other times he would stop in the middle of a conversation and make me repeat everything said in the last few minutes, word for word.

​The aim of this mental regimen?

​“This was levels beyond the simple memorisation I had practised for the stage. My mind was learning to work in different ways, becoming stronger. It felt the same way your body feels after a day of splitting wood, or swimming, or sex. You feel exhausted, languorous, and almost Godlike. This feeling was similar, except it was my intellect that was wary and expanded, languid and latently powerful. I could feel my mind starting to awaken.”

​Those passages raised a series of questions.

When was the last time you bent your mind like that? When was the last time you felt exhausted because of the mental strain you’d deliberately placed yourself under? When was the last time you stretched out and exceeded your capacities, as Montaigne puts it?

I felt a wave of shame flow through me as I gave my answer: 

“I can’t remember.