Thursday, January 29, 2015

intellectual coward

The Associated Press was in contact this morning, seeking confirmation of my mother's death and other odds and ends. The requests sent me here and there around the house and put me on a my-mother's-death frequency.

I wondered what I had learned from her. Probably a lot, much of it so tightly woven within as to be forgotten. But it crossed my mind that one of the positive things she taught me, though she never said it directly, was, "don't be an intellectual coward." She never was and, as a result, she was lonely I think.

What is an intellectual coward? Taking a swing at it, I guess I'd say an intellectual coward was someone who claimed to know something and was graceless enough not to admit that s/he was too tired or busy to do the homework implicit in that knowledge. Going the distance is too damned exhausting and it's easier, within or without, to say, "I know."

But I see nothing wrong with admitting that sure-fire or even much-touted knowledge is just the point beyond which the one with the knowledge refused to go. There are gross versions of this -- think "terrorist" or "hero" or "love" -- and there are far subtler versions -- writers or sports bettors or philosophers or whoever who rely on the sweat of others and then claim it for their own ... without that graceful nod to the distance they refused to go ... and for which they expect applause.

It takes some balls not to be an intellectual coward and my mother had balls.


  1. I'm lazy/tired enough any more to just say nope, not interested enough to bother.

  2. I like that you have addressed one of the difficulties of taking the "next step." It isn't always cowardice, but cowardice certainly is one of the most frequent difficulties, as is laziness, arrogance, undeveloped ability and lack of ability.

    In your mother's honor I salute all those who have pushed and those who are trying to push the envelpe, espectially the lonely ones. I also salute and ask for compassion for those of us who are scared and facing sundry other limitations (self imposed and otherwise).