Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Polymath

My friend reaches across discipline, plucking ideas, events and folklore at will to pepper his conversation. Listening is a pleasure, contributing is daunting, and I wish I could make notes so I could pass off his effortless pansophy as my own at a later date. I drink lager, which emboldens me to stop doubting myself and loosens my tongue, and I manage one or two profound observations which make him pause with delight as he approves them, or failing that I make simplistic profane proclamations, which disarm him with charm and primitive logic.

I make my excuses, and get into bed.
"It's unfair," I text. "I am at heart and head a basic man, but one cursed with the awareness to realise this. He makes me panic that I am trundling along, ignorant, coarse, phlegmatic. I am the most learned person in this bed though, so this is where I am."
[I mentioned I’d been drinking lager]

The next day, my friend heads to Oxford, to try and convince a famous Don to take him on as a protégé. I drop him off ten miles outside of Oxford on the hottest day of the year – "It's a pig of a city to drive into, and you'll have fun, walking, hitching, whatever" – and return home, with a sense that Something Must Be Done, rather than disappearing down the plughole of fatuousness without even a struggle.

I pluck books off the shelves – "this is the tragedy, the books are already here, at your fingertips" – and start to devour them in the sun.
"This is the stuff: learning! Experience, wisdom; you can only coast along with them for so long without refuelling."
I remind myself of the horrors of Gallipoli, why I prefer Gladstone to Disraeli, Kubla Khan, whether I should become a humanist or if actually I am one already, and who is who in Darfur.

Eventually though, I find I lie on my back, and watch birds and clouds. My brain slows, like an unwound clock, and I contemplate my insecurities as the moment stretches out to a half hour. Claiming a thirst for knowledge is all good and well, but suppose if it were me heading to Oxford, really I know it would be an Inkling existence that I would seek out, dillydallying in meadows and writing silly stories. I see the cat lazing in the sun, and it's not the busy ants I envy.

And that night I text "and so my occasional hanker for study is swiftly quenched and ignored once more; ultimately I am a creature of decadence, unstrenuous cogitation, of indulgent solace. And for now, I am okay with that."
[I had drunk more lager]

3 comments:

Brennig said...

What's wrong with dillydallying in meadows and writing silly stories?

Shane said...

This post is a good example of what you're good at. Like the horse man said, what's wrong with the dillydallying. At risk of provoking you... from this vantage point, the dillydallying suits you. And the rhythm to much of your writing here, is perfectly summerish.

Jane said...

Are you planning on writing again? Just so I know.