I love my little brain. It’s a good thing. I have an enormous ego to match it. I’m not very proud of many things about me, and I feel considerable shame at times. But there it is: I’m proud of being smart.
I’ve struggled with this in our current age of heroes-without-minds: Forrest Gump is celebrated because he does things, rather than thinks things. I taught 4 semesters of Critical Thinking with a heavy dose of logic at the college level; in fact, it’s something of a passion, reasoning, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have had a half dozen students per class, if it weren’t required. But I loved it. I love linguistics, and linguini (that’s for free; especially with clams). I enjoy mathematics, and history and science and art. And I love to read. I love being aware of, and making, connections between these disciplines.
Yet, I’m not really known for doing things. If people think of me at all, it’s because I have something to contribute with my mind–a witty comment, or a pointed remark, or maybe I’ll write something or analyze a document. I have a contrary head. Everything I look at, I seem to be cursed to visualize from more than one angle. I talk myself out of being angry because I’m good at seeing from other perspectives than my own. Everything is open to other peoples’ opinions.
A friend and I have been having a conversation about not being a fit within the Pentecostal tradition, which would happily eliminate thinking with doctrinal correctness. I understand this: the Assemblies of God was founded with the belief that any second, Christ would return, and that we’d be ready. The Asuza Street revivalists didn’t have time for money, or education (although many of them were educated), or worldly belongings; at any moment, the Lord could return and it was our duty to bring as many of the unbelievers to Christ as we could. Well, the Asuza Street Revival happened in LA, over 100 years ago. That’s roughly 4 generations that have been told to wait on “worldly” pursuits in favor of Christ’s return. Many colleagues are speaking of a “Pentecostal Brain Drain” where people like me no longer felt welcome to utilize our gifts in the denomination, and left, many to Methodist or Presbyterian churches, where people with minds feel comfortable. I made the shift, mentally, although not socially and culturally, several years back.
My ill-fitting mind galls me. I was never the guy who did things. I used to lament the looks that temp agencies would give me, right after I graduated. A foreman would size me up and think “Well, this one looks like he could lift heavy stuff.” And, of course, rather than being assigned my preferred office job, I’d clearing out a shed or something. I don’t mean to say people who do manual labor are somehow less-than-good. I want that to be understood clearly. It’s just not my personal preference. I remember when I was seven years old, telling my stepfather “I’d never be a logger,” which is how he worked for most of his adult life. “Good,” he said. “Nobody should ever have to do that.” So I spent my youth reading rather than the more common outdoorsy things that my family prized. I valued indoor stuff, and was given leeway by my family to explore these avenues. Still, it was a lonely journey, my high school years. My best friends were teachers. I related to adults better than to my peers.
Those days are long past. I got my wish. I’m officially sedentary, in every since of the word. I’m also officially huge. Huge body, huge mind, huge voice, huge sense of humor; huge butt. I conquered 6’6″ (200 cm) quite some time ago, only to shrink after a back surgery in the late 1990s. So, my question is this: why am I so ashamed of who I turned out to be? Why do I cave inward when someone suggests I don’t live in “real America” because we’re a country of doers, and there’s no place for a nation of thinkers? If I want to think, I can go to France or some other communist country. I’ve heard politicos and pundits express these very words on television. And sometimes I think they’re right. I don’t fit. Not in my Church, not in my country, not in my community.
I wonder where I’ll go next? Somewhere in my mind, no doubt. I guess I’m stuck being worthwhile in my head, since it’s pretty obvious I’ll never go anywhere in real life.