JUST TRYING TO DO
THE SMART THING
A good friend of mine thinks I'm an intellectual. He invited me
to a philosophical seminar, "Living a Good Life," to be held at
Cavallo Point in Sausalito November 10th.
He doesn't understand that our whole relationship is a fraud. I
was thinking of continuing the deception and attending the seminar until I
found out it wasn't three hours, as I'd thought, but THREE DAYS! Time to set
the record straight.
"I'm not who you think I am," I explained to him when
he began the full court press to get me to attend. "I don't have an
intellectual bone in my body."
He looked crestfallen, so I tried to explain how the
misconception came about. It began about 20 years ago, when we first met. I
was sitting next to my friend at a dinner party, and he launched into a
philosophical discussion that immediately put me to sleep.
But then he mentioned this guy named Nietzsche, and suddenly I
was all ears. I listened intently as he rambled on, and he was thrilled to
finally find someone who shared his love for intellectual philosophy.
The problem, I explained to him 20 years later, was that at
some point I learned he was talking about Friedrich Nietzsche, the famous
German philosopher. I thought he was talking about Ray Nitschke, the star
linebacker for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960's. I was listening intently
because I was surprised that the hard hitting linebacker was such an
Next thing you know, thinking that he had finally found a
compatriot, my friend starts sending me these books by Carl Jung, Plato,
Machiavelli and other deep thinkers. I'd read about one page, my brain would
cloud over, and it would go on the bookshelf to impress the random guest.
"How did you like the book I sent you," he would ask
when I next saw him. "Wasn't it fascinating?"
When I told him I really couldn't appreciate the writing style
because I knew it was translated from a foreign language, it should have
been a sign that I was not in his league. But he continued to send me books
over the years. He was desperate for a compatriot.
I continued the charade because it meant so much to him. Now it
was time to set the record straight. After finishing the Nietzsche story,
which I might have embellished a bit, I added some ammunition to my
"Has it ever occured to you that I have never contributed
an intellectual thought to any philosophical discussion we've ever
had?" I asked. "Didn't that make you wonder if I was truly an
"Some deep thinkers are very quiet, alone with their
thoughts," he shrugged. "I just assumed you were one of
"You're supposed to be the smart one," I cried.
"That doesn't sound very smart."
"It's all I've got," he replied. "Just come to
the seminar. We need people."
He handed me the brochure. The theme was "In Fraught
Times: Looking for Wisdom." There were segments on the Dalai Lama, the
Tao Te Ching, and that wildly popular Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti.
And much, much more.
Three days of intense thinking. And there was some reading that
was necessary to do before attending. That's because there would be
discussion of the content. Which meant I would have to express my thoughts.
Which meant I would have to think of something to say.
Which meant I was out.
"Don't you see? I'm a fraud," I explained. "I fooled you into
thinking I might have some intellectual capacity. I can't even read poetry,
unless it's a limerick. It's time to end this charade."
He let out a big sigh. His intellectual brain was desperately
thinking of something that could convince me that I at least had potential.
But even brilliant thinkers come up empty from time to time.
"OK, you're off the hook," he finally said with the
utmost reluctance. "I'll just have to fill you in on all the stuff we
talk about. You're going to be sorry about missing the segment on Ibn Arabi.
It's right up your alley."
"Unless he's playing in the NBA, I'm really not
interested," I countered, having no idea that he was an ancient Islamic
philosopher (I looked it up.)
We then parted ways, my friend and I. A new chapter in our
relationship, based on honesty and not fraud, was upon us. Now that's a
philosophy that makes sense.