I hitched a ride with a vending machine repairman
He said he’d been down that road more than twice
He was high on intellectualism
I’ve never been there, but the brochure looks nice.
—Sheryl Crow


I keep meaning to read some of those books on friendship that I keep hearing about, but I’m hesitant to read about friendship, for fear of disturbing what I know about it. I spent most of my life over-intellectualizing everything—especially everything having to do with my emotions—and now that I’ve more or less broken the habit, I’m sometimes scared to think about anything important at all, because I might fall off the bandwagon again. Seriously:

me : thinking :: a drunk : alcohol.

There’s a legitimate place for logical analysis just like there’s a legitimate place for gin, but certain people have trouble drawing those lines.

drunk on plato

Actually, this is partly responsible for my relatively recent, totally enthusiastic decision not to go to grad school. For a while I felt guilty about not wanting to go, because people kept telling me that I’d be shirking my duty by not going, like throwing away this incredible gift that I have or something. Burying my talents. I stopped listening when I realized that (1) somewhere towards the end of college, I stopped caring about litrachaw very much, and (2) even if I could get a job teaching at a university, that life sounds incredibly insular and confining to me. I still enjoy a good intellectual conversation if I’m in the mood, I still read good books, I still love to write.

I can be really awful about this: I sometimes have to restrain myself from openly mocking my friends who are in grad school, and I’m sure I’m not as good at hiding my feelings as I think I am. It’s just that I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet, is all. I’m sure it’s perfect for some people. I’m sure it would be terrible if nobody went at all…

There are so many paradoxes in the way I grew up. I’m from a family of intellectuals, but part of the family culture is that we sneer at intellectuals. I mean the ivory-tower kind, of course, you know, the Princeton grads — nothing like us! We’re real people! You can tell because we don’t wear fancy clothes! …I guess we sneer at them because we’re afraid we are them. So it goes. I’m sure I’m still doing the same thing.

So, I’m on the run from intellectualism. I’m sure I’ll get over my current caginess on the issue, and maybe I’ll even find a way to be an intellectual without being the wrong kind. For now I’m content to wait for the pendulum to swing back on its own momentum, as it is bound to do.

One thought on “Ivory Tower

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