Two strangers meet on a road. They first show their hands bare of weapons with a wave then a handshake. They identify themselves and their origins. One of the new acquaintances knows of the land in which they meet and the other does not, so he tells the traveler where she is.
Hello to you, reader. Let me shake your hand. I am Michael Demastrie. As for my origins, there are many, depending how we view my past. For this first introduction, I’ll be traditional and tell you of my surname identity rather than my geographical or social affiliations. Before 1915, my last name would have been De Maestri, with “de” meaning “from the family of” and Maestri originating from the Roman word magisters and most recognizable today as the plural of maestro. I identity with a family line of masters—taken by me in its most general meaning as those people who aim to master something, anything really, or even many things.
This page where you have found yourself is part of a land I am creating, so I should tell to you where you are. To do so, I’ll explain the name of this place, “The Dao of Doctor D.” I’ll the question for you, my once-a-stranger-new-acquaintance-someday-friend, “why the name?” Let me decompose this question into two, “why ‘the Dao of’?” and “why ‘Doctor D’?”
Why “The Dao of?”
The “the Dao of” has been the within the title of many of books and articles. It implies a journey seeking simply wisdom. I read an excerpt from a book called the “The Dao de Jing” most nights lying in bed with my Kindle on my chest. Sometimes it is my last thought before falling asleep. The Dao De Jing is by the author Lao Zi and written around 600 B.C. (The book is often spelled “Tao Te Ching” and sometimes as a single word, “Daodejing.”) I like the thoughts reading excerpts brings me. I like its simple ideas. I like the sense of balance and the feeling of timelessness that I fall asleep with.
The word Dao means “way” or “path.” In my novice mind, the word “Dao” represents a timeless thread through everything that is, that was, and that will be. I sometimes see it carrying the fifth dimension, the dimension beyond time that has the infinite other threads of what could have been and what could be. The Dao is a thinking tool for problem-solving and understanding the world we live in.
Lao Zi says if you name the Dao, the named version is not the real Dao. The version we talk and think about now is a snapshot, a model, of the real one. It is like how a photograph of a person is not the person. I always think of the Dao as an asymptote, a line that we approach but never reach. This idea of a path that runs through everything is a theme and a unifying thread that guides the writing in this place. It aligns with my still-congealing personal brand statement of “Free the past. Be the present. See the future.” It deserves its role as the first half of the title.
Why “Doctor D?”
“Doctor D?” comes from the convergence of two of my thought streams. The first stream is a notion that has crept into my thinking in past year that I need to leverage my accomplishments of the past and target them to my future goals. As a lifelong jack-of-all-trades, I realized that I need to wrangle my interests from over the years. I have had many hobbies, gotten a variety of degrees and certifications, and have many creative projects that I’ve to myself. I need to focus future hobby work toward goals and pull together and leverage the peanut butter smear of things I’ve accomplished.
In the fall of 2016, I finished a ten-year academic goal to finish and defend my PhD dissertation, “Exploring the Efficiency and Tractability of ARBAC Policy Verification Heuristics.” Man, that was more work than I expected when I started the project at age 42, but, through all the suffering and changes of heart, I finished. Since then, I have never used the “Dr.” prefix or the “PhD” suffix, except for some professional society memberships. By my own new rule, I needed to channel some benefits of this accomplishment toward a goal.
I had a book-writing goal (which I’ll share in good time) with a subgoal to create a platform for my writing interest. That platform notion became this site, still forming as I type this post. I thought it might be a good place to playfully come out of the PhD closet. I wanted to use the title in a way that was clear I didn’t have a medical degree and I wasn’t a narcissist who needed to feed my ego. I was just a guy who went to night school since he was twenty years old and acquired credentials. While thinking about the name of this site, the title of the movie, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” popped into my head. It’s a strange and beautiful Terry Gilliam film about a traveling theater group dealing with (and in the trade of) human choices. I never assumed that Doctor Parnassus was a medicine man, so I decided that I’d spell out “Doctor” like the movie title instead of abbreviate it.
I now had “The Dao of Doctor Demastrie” as a name. It seemed hard to say, so I shortened my surname to “D,” which was my high school nickname. I lost that nickname when I went into the military at 20 and spent more than four years only known by my last name. After that service, it was family and career, so it never re-emerged. Still, “D” is part of my identity. I turn my head if I hear it on the street and smile when my oldest friends use it on rare phone calls.
Nice to meet you, fellow traveler. Welcome to the land of “The Dao of Doctor D.“
-Mike Demastrie as Doctor D