I took an early lunch yesterday at around eleven, and I was feeling quite professional on my way home. The reason for the early lunch was that I had to be in the booth by 12:30 to do the 1 o’clock news cast, and then the 2, and the 3. Jarred, fellow intern, heard that I was doing the newscasts earlier that morning and came to visit me at my desk.“Newscasts, huh?” said Jarred, “not in the booth, practicing?” “Nah,” I replied.
The truth is I was actually thinking about practicing, mostly so that my voice wouldn’t sound hoarse during my first cast. But as soon Jarred suggested that I needed practice, I put the kibosh on the idea. Practice? Me? I don’t think so. Don’t need it. So, I entered the dark, chilly apartment (we keep it at 68), unpracticed, and on my lonesome. I decided to take advantage of the seclusion and put on some of my music. Yeah, good music. I plugged in my new ipod touch to the stereo and blasted The Dodos. Not too loud… neighbors. I turned it down, but just a little. I snapped my fingers as I perused the cabinets and refrigerator. Velveeta mac and cheese, thank you very much (don’t worry, it’s the 2% milk version, half the fat. daddy’s taking care of himself). I sat down at the table with my piping hot bowl of mac and cheese, popped a lactaid pill, and grabbed the latest issue of the Economist. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good at this point; my music was playing via my sleek ipod touch, I was gearing up to do three newscasts without practice because I’m that good, I had a copy of the young liberal’s Bible in front of me, and lactose was successfully being broken down in my body, thanks to lactaid. At this point the roommates had arrived and were rummaging through the kitchen; so I turned the music down, but just a little. I was jamming out, scooping up the mac and cheese, flipping through the Economist, when i arrived at a particular article about Thomas Paine. Hey, I know about Thomas Paine, I thought. I wrote a paper or two about him while getting my Poly Sci minor. I at least know enough to throw out little nuggets here and there to impress friends: Common Sense pamphlet in 1775, state of nature, men are good, etc. I’m not sure why I remember Paine so well; maybe it’s because of my infatuation with the movie Major Payne.
Thomas Paine has always been a confidence booster for me, but his use has really only been in the form of the random fact. The skill I learned best as an English major is how to communicate just enough about a subject to seem knowledgeable, which is essentially bullshitting. The random fact has always been my intellectual crutch. There are really only a handful things I know anything about. For example, I like to remind the average Feist listener that she used to be in a band called Broken Social Scene, a Canadian post-rock experiment group. It’s important to mention when Ben Stein is on TV that he was once a speech writer for Richard Nixon. When the OC was on, it was always nice to quiz people about what movie Marissa was in as a kid (she was the throw-up girl in the Sixth Sense). And if someone is reading a newspaper or a magazine, I like to slyly bring up the fact that paper comes from trees.I began to read the article about Thomas Paine feeling very proud of the fact that I already knew something about an Economist article before reading it. I got to about the third line. An Arkansas legislator was attempting to pass a bill to create a Thomas Paine day… What for? I read on… To educate the people about the impact he had on our independence? Oh no! I mean, sure, he did have a huge impact, but I don’t want everyone to know about it. If everyone knew about Thomas Paine, not only would everyone else be getting smarter, but my relative intelligence would go down. I became angry. The bill didn’t pass, phew. “…an effort to institute a Paine day in all 50 states…so far nine states have passed such resolutions, including…Virginia”?! What the hell? What did I even get my minor for if everyone’s going to already know what I learned due to a stupid holiday? Going to school was never about educating myself; it was about being educated more than others. This was a blow. My mac and cheese started to taste more slimy than good, The Dodos’ constant banging began to annoy me, and I started to get nervous about my afternoon broadcasts. Why didn’t I practice?! This was just like the other day when my roommates and I were watching Arrested Development. I tried to throw out an apparently ancient random fact in a last ditch effort to look informed. “You know Gob and Amy Polar are married in real life too,” I said. “Yeah, we know,” everyone said in near unison. Here’s the problem; not everyone can be intelligent. Some have to be uninformed for others to be informed. Good cannot exist without evil, light without dark, etc. We need to limit what we pass on to the uninformed, for the sake of people like me, the marginally intelligent. People like me cling to the few pieces of knowledge that get clogged on their way out “the other ear” after we learn them. Sometimes, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.