We had a lively conversation and an interesting exchange of ideas. And yet… I was a bit put off by an overuse of what my friend Jack calls “ten cent words.” And the liberal sprinkling of foreign phrases that he added into the conversation at every opportunity. Clearly, he was trying to make an impression. And he did. I’m just not so sure it was the impression he wanted to make.
Pseudo-intellectuals. During an election year, they crawl out of the woodwork.
The funny thing is that I know I’m probably fairly pretentious, too. Hell, so are most of my friends. But we know it and we can laugh at ourselves when we get a little too serious or highbrow. We definitely don’t have to impress each other by throwing our brain-weight around. The pseudo-intellectuals I’m speaking of here don’t consider themselves “pseudo.” They just think they are smart, period. And they relish any opportunity to spread it around.
Of the smartest people I know, two stand out- and neither went to college. One is actually a high school drop-out. Both of them are well-traveled. Both of them are current on political and socioeconomic events and news. One, a man, has read every book ever written, practically. Think of a range that includes the Bronte sisters and Robert Reich. The other, a woman, will take every opportunity she can to make the case for her candidate of choice, until she’s blue in the face- and then some. They are deeply passionate, deeply knowledgeable people. And when we get into any sort of interesting conversation that’s beyond the legal limits, I hang on their every word.
Not only am I not impressed by someone who tries to impress me with their credentials- however shiny they may be- I feel like pulling out my hair when I find myself stuck in an endless conversation with a pseudo-intellectual. I also feel somewhat offended by people who assume that a college degree is a prerequisite for intelligence. Or that a high-paying career is the only measure of success.
When I think of the most successful people I know, they don’t necessarily have those signs of material wealth that we so often mistake for success. And as a side note, most of the people I know who live in big houses and drive big cars also have a great deal of big debt.
No, the people I think of as the most successful probably don’t even think of themselves as successes. One of my friends went through a painful divorce and lives in a little old house that’s constantly in the middle of a remodeling job. But he also has a career that he enjoys and daughter who seems to grow more beautiful by the minute. He owns his home in a city where no can afford to buy, probably in part because he got there before the last boom. He takes trips hither and yon as the mood strikes him. And he’s just happy. What more he could he want? That’s success, as far as I know.
I know that he has everything that I want. Well, aside from that painful divorce. And isn’t that the greatest measure of success? Success by comparison, I guess you’d call it. And I’m just trying to be funny, literal-minded readers. No, he’d no more call himself successful because I think he’s a success than any of you would. I suppose some people consider themselves successful based on the way that others view them, but those people don’t seem to exist in my world.
I’m reading over this last paragraph and I’m waxing far too intellectually.
Or at least I’m doing a good job of faking it. ~
Have an excellent weekend, guys.