Sunday, January 02, 2005


In Pursuit of My Intellectual Joneses

I have kept myself entertained and drenched in sweat this fine Sunday indulging in what has to be my favorite pasttime: listening to Hitchens. His website (though I doubt he is the one who gathers it), posted here on my blog, offers a panoply of written, audio, and video of him at his best. Frankly, I don't yet know him at his worst, as it has yet to be revealed to me. Listen to him on Smiley or Krasny (Krasny is the only one who, to date, I have ever seen able to correct Hitchens appropriately), and you will hear him say things that no other thinker of my time would have the nerve or even know to say. Anyone who can take on, with such verve, Mother Teresa, Kissinger, and Ghandi, must have both balls of steel and experience the rest of us should covet. On John Stewart's show, Hitchens speaks off-handedly almost of having Khomeini's grandson over for dinner. (Doesn't seem almost wasteful to live a life where you could live it without stories like this? Do you think him and his wife ever, even secretly, revel in the good fortune of having the kind of access his intellect has afforded them?) One could only hope that as I build my way up to the place I long to be that I will have that kind of access as well. Or maybe, in my next life, I truly will be a fly, a fly on the wall, listening to intellectuals in less-rehearsed moments talk through their beliefs with friends over cocktails. Access to the un-taped moments of thought is what seems so fascinating. That is what really captured me about his time on Krasny's San Francisco show is that Krasny was actually capable of making him think on air, which is quite rare for a man who has had time to hone his beliefs to a point of merely repeating ideas he has held for many years. Here, he was truly charged with thinking aloud.
I have mentioned before my lust of intellect, and it is never more pronounced than when I listen to him. I have been blessed to meet and be in the company of bright people over the last few years, but none of them have made me feel this inferior, yet capable. It occurs to me often as he speaks that, while I will never have the memory or even thinking power that he has, I could read enough to converse. I think too of those days when my parents would take me to look at big beautiful mansions and how I never thought I would be so lucky as to live in one. This too, feels like a brief drive by a mansion of a mind, as for only a peek, not a tour, much less a home.
I awkwardly feel the need to wax poetic after hearing him, much the way we speak the dialect of characters in our favorite book for a couple of days after finishing it. The longing to be like him just doesn't fade that fast.
It also occurred to me today that to have a child that didn't have the capacity to have that kind of intellect would make me feel empty, as if I had lost somehow. That may explain some of my fear of rearing children, that I wouldn't be able to rear the kind of child I would want (and that I would dream them big, lofty dreams under which no child should live). My parents were particularly smart in this regard, to only dream for me health, happiness, and success in my own right. They did not try to force these things but merely steer me in that direction. Given my hard-headedness, this was really their only choice, but a very wise one.

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