The problem I have with bridge is the signalling conventions. And wait, I probably shouldn't get into this again.
For someone who is obviously very bright and very into analysis, I remain astonished that you are not interested in Bridge, and that you are skeptical about the systems built up around it.
In my (admittedly limited) experience, the constructs of Bridge feel alien, but not because they are arbitrary and artificial, but rather that they are so advanced and developed that a beginner is incapable of appreciating why they are the way they are.
It is somewhat analogous to physics. It is possible to view physics problems as a matter of memorizing thousands of equations and applying them in the right way. As anyone who has ever taken physics knows, this is an approach destined to fail. The correct way is to have a conceptual underpinning of how physics works, and so therefore be able to reason out the approach you should take.
But the other extreme (you don't need to memorize any formulas or equations, because you should be able to derive everything on your own) is equally foolhardy, because no one has the brainpower to be able to derive everything immediately, and so shortcuts like memorizing certain equations are very handy.
To complete the analogy: most of Bridge's conventions are logically deducible in some way. Although the only way to master them is through understanding why they arise, in practice, it is easier to begin by memorizing certain axioms and then later deriving their purpose. (Chess is quite similar: you could
derive for yourself why opening theory is the way that it is, but for a beginner it is easier just to memorize e4 c5 Nf3 d6 d4 exd4 Nxd4.)