A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I got into an argument(or maybe the more correct term for it was disagreement) about how a recent discussion we had involving a friend of his whom I only met once before.
Basically, he accused me of hijacking the conversation and trying to show off my supposed intellectual superiority.
In other words, he claimed I was being a pretentious smart ass.
Now, I admit, being called a smart ass didn’t bother me so much: in my 36 years and counting, I have been called much worse. It also didn’t bother me that I was being accused of having character flaws. Indeed, I am often the first to point out my many flaws which could be basis for several posts.
However, one thing that irks me is being accused of something I am not. Frankly, I don’t believe pretentiousness is one of my flaws.
The main reason I don’t think it applies is because I do not consider myself to be an intellectually superior person by any means. While I consider myself someone of above-average intelligence and well-read, I also consider myself to be someone who is more intellectually curious than pretentious.
Now, at the risk of truly sounding like a pretentious smart ass, I am being 100% sincere when I say that I long for knowledge. I love sharing my knowledge and more importantly, learning from others.
When I say “knowledge” I am not necessarily talking about the stuff found in books or university courses. Some of the most interesting, knowledgeable people I have ever met in my life have never stepped foot in a university. Instead, I find knowledge in the mundane.
As a kid growing up in rural North Carolina sans cable and way before the time of home internet access, I spent a lot of time exploring the outdoors and in the presence of adults who were much older than me. I was always asking questions of the latter and most were happy to oblige.
For instance, I had one elderly neighbor who owned a gas station back in the 1930s and 1940s and would tell me stories about what the area was like back then. Another was an avid outdoors man who taught me how to melt lead to make bullets. My own grandmother shared stories about being a young newlywed during the Great Depression and taught me how to knit, crochet, and sew.
As a result, I was a weird kid who grew into an ever weirder adult.
Even today when I first meet people, I ask them about themselves and often share weird esoteric knowledge I picked up along the way. It truly isn’t an attempt on my part to come across as weird on purpose or display any kind of expertise: I guess you could say it is just the way I am.
Perhaps some people have a problem with that and it does grate their nerves.
Still, I would argue that lack of intellectual curiosity and exchange is a far greater problem. As someone who works around a lot of young people, I often hear comments saying that they wish they didn’t have to know a lot of “worthless stuff” or that they don’t think knowledge has any value unless it can somehow help them, make them wealthy and/or directly pertains to them.
I may never use a lot of the knowledge I have expect perhaps as dinner party trivia, but I feel I am richer for knowing it.
If I happen to share it, it isn’t because I want to show off: it’s just that I am hoping that perhaps you will find it interesting, too, or share some interesting stuff you happen to know that I do not.
In any case, my mind is hungry and I am inviting you to feed it. Maybe you would like to sample some of what I have to offer, too.
Perhaps you will say, “No, thanks!” and that is fine.
I just didn’t think it would hurt to ask.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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