Thursday, January 29, 2015
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.