I got up this morning, opened the blinds, and turned on the radio. The first word spoken was Iraq, so I changed over to a classical music station and listened to Handel. Iraq has nothing to do with me except for the fact that the government will take my property at gunpoint unless I help pay the interest on our war loans.
I weary of the oppressive nature of organizations—all organizations, even democratic ones. In our society, we figure that one vote per person is about right, but I think we could do better. Instead of voting for only one candidate for an office, each voter could have ten votes and award them as he pleased. This could work out as follows: five votes for candidate A, three for B, one for C, and none for D. Or in the case of ballot measures, each voter could have 300 votes to distribute. That way, people who were deeply invested would have more say than people who were not.
One of the groups I belong to has been trying to decide whether to move a pool table from the basement to the dining room. Those who play pool oppose the idea, but others have the vague hope that it might encourage more people would come to meetings. Now, which group do you think is more invested? Yet, everyone has the same voting power. This reminds me of a cynical definition of democracy: “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”
Another of my groups is moving its meeting place due to a rent increase. I brokered the move, which might reasonably have been expected to take nine hours but instead took nine months. I was the reluctant center of attention at meeting after meeting as I answered the same questions and addressed the same issues. I was emotionally finished well before the process was physically finished, and I often found myself almost too perturbed to stay in the room.
I could bear my fellows better if I respected their intelligence. As it is, I see more in me than I see in them, but I am unable to use my gifts to the benefit of either.
“…intercourse with others requires a process of leveling down. The qualities which are present in one man, and absent in another, cannot come into play when they meet; and the self-sacrifice which this entails upon one of the parties, calls forth no recognition from the other…. To show your intelligence and discernment is only an indirect way of reproaching other people for being dull and incapable.”
It would be appropriate here for me to say how it is that I am superior, but I cannot well do so, and this leaves open the possibility that I am deluded. After all, I have accomplished little. I do many things well but none outstandingly. The highest award I’ve earned was a bachelor’s degree. The most money I’ve made was a trifle. I excel in neither looks nor personality. I seldom took a class but what I was outclassed by some of my fellows. Likewise, I am strong and coordinated, but not remarkably so.
The only thing I can offer to support my claim to superiority is that I appear to think more deeply than most people, but I cannot say why this is the case. It could be a matter of intelligence, but I doubt it. I think that it is more a case of curiosity combined with intellectual courage, but I cannot prove this, and I have no way to account for it.
In any event and for whatever reason, I have felt this way for as long as I can remember. I first became aware of it in the context of religion, because I was one of those rare people in rural Mississippi who expressed doubts about what I was told in church. To my astonishment, even my fellow theology students at Whitworth College went to class like horses led to a trough. I initially surmised that other people didn’t ask questions, because other people already had answers, but if this was true, why didn’t they share them with me?
I concluded that I could think deeply or I could be a Christian, but I couldn’t do both because Christian belief necessitates an accommodation between a person’s intellect and his desire to believe. I came to see that faith in Jesus was like floating in water in that it could only happen if a person was able to let go and relax, but I could not relax, and I found a strange comfort in this. Other people appeared to sell their souls too cheaply. They made a pact with God that denied their intellect, and they called this pact faith, deemed it a virtue, and said that only “a fool” would disagree. I considered it a pact with the devil, because I could not see how such a God surpassed the devil.
So, what do I do with my life? As the years pass, I join organizations like the Freemasons and the Odd Fellows, organizations that require at least a token theism. Does this connote the personal superiority of which I boast? No, I think that it connotes a seriously ambivalent personality. One might even conjecture that I feel superior to other people to hide the fact that I don’t have it together nearly as well as they do. But I don’t believe it. In this, at least, I can let go and relax. The fact that I have not made the most of my abilities does not disprove their existence.
It is oftentimes the case that special gifts come with special liabilities. Whether this is necessarily true or co-incidentally true seems to vary, but, in my own case, I know two things: I could become a great deal more than I have ever been; and I am not yet dead. The fact that the same could be said of anyone does not concern me.