I am much too easily entertained

St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg. Don't ask me who built it!

St. Catherine Lutheran Church, St. Petersburg. Don’t ask me who built it!

In about 1975 when I was a doctoral student in the University of Iowa School of Music in Iowa City, a friend from Muscatine, IA, where I was music director at Trinity Episcopal Church, asked me if I didn’t think it was wonderful that we were part of the “intelligentsia.” She was the program director for a foundation that presented educational forums at a center they owned in Taos, NM. She was well educated (an MA from the University), and I was supposedly becoming even better educated than I was. We were both moderately intelligent persons.

At the time I told her I thought her description of us was a bit of a stretch.

Over the years many other people have asked me similar questions, usually in the form of “Do you consider yourself an intellectual?” or some such. (Or, worse, they state it as a fact!) My answer has always been without reservation, “No, I do not.” I am intellectual enough to know that I have been in the company of—have close friends who are—“intellectuals.” Most of those friends are much too modest to say they are.

That one has a PhD is no indication one is an intellectual. It merely indicates a certain kind of perseverance, a willingness to play the trained seal and jump through a certain number of hoops. That one teaches in a university is no indication one is an intellectual. I hardly even need to give evidence for that. Usually what passes for “intellectualism” in university faculties is the ability to focus on one tiny aspect of one tiny subject and carry out arcane research to the point that one knows more about that tiny subject than (almost) anyone else.

The fact is, I am too easily entertained to be an “intellectual.”

I go to the opera to be entertained, not to analyze either the work itself or the production. I cannot now, and could not the day I saw any of the operas, tell you the name of one singer I heard at the Dallas Opera last season. Two of the three productions were entertaining, as far as I was concerned. The other was bizarre, hard to follow visually, and confusing. That’s all I know about them.

Sunrise over UNT Dallas

Sunrise over UNT Dallas

I have been to Palestine (and therefore to Israel because you can’t get to Palestine without going there) twice. I have read, I think, three books on the history of the current plight of the Palestinian people. I have Palestinian friends—both in Dallas and in Bethlehem. I am committed to helping Americans understand the real situation there as opposed to the one our government and the news media present. But I have absolutely no scholarly ability to discuss the situation and no “intellectual” prowess with which to convince anyone of anything.

I have now been to three of the four Scandinavian countries and St. Petersburg in Russia. I went with the choir of Calvary Lutheran Church in Richland Hills, TX. One of my friends loaned me a very large book, a biography of Catherine the Great of Russia, to read before we went. I cannot imagine reading such a tome. I learned half a dozen short pieces of organ music by American composers to play on the instruments we used in the performances we gave. I also had the Bach G Major Prelude under my fingers. I don’t have a single recording of my playing any one of those works on the glorious instruments I was privileged to play. Snippets, yes, complete works, no. I can’t tell you the history of any of those organs—or even the makers of all of them. Any of my real organist friends would have recordings of each and know exactly the specifications and history of all of them. I was entertained playing them.

Yesterday a group of workmen using a huge crane and a “cherry picker” attached signage to the front of the building across Main Street from my inamorato’s apartment. The building is now marked “UNT SYSTEM” and is the home of The University of North Texas at Dallas. I watched them lift the “T” up from the street and attach it. I want to know if the workmen were sign makers or employees of the construction firm that remodeled the building. I want most, however, to know how they attached the letters to the building. From our vantage point across the street there was nothing on the wall with which to hang the letters. I think they used crazy glue.

I have now been entertained for 24 hours by three big green letters—not the stuff of the intellectual life.

Why I’m writing this I don’t know except that I’ve been thinking more and more often (is it possible to think more often than always?) since I’ve become senescent about what’s important in my life. I don’t think it’s “Human Rights and a Post-Secular Religion of Humanity” (1) or “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions” (2).

I’m not saying someone shouldn’t explore those ideas. Just not me.

(1) Calo, Zachary R. “Religion, Human Rights, And Post-Secular Legal Theory.” St. John’s Law Review 85.2 (2011): 495-519.
(2) Paul, Gregory. “The Chronic Dependence Of Popular Religiosity Upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions.” Evolutionary Psychology 7.3 (2009): 398-441.

About Harold Knight
Retired English prof, SMU. Old man. Musician. Passionate about justice, equality, freedom. Therefore, I am a fervent supporter of and advocate for the Palestinian People as they struggle to survive genocide. That also means, of course, I have no use for US 45.

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