Thursday, 28 May 2009

How to Look Like an Intellectual Without Even Trying

LIVING IN THE MIDST OF A SORT OF "CAFE CULTURE" as I do, I cannot help but think (and it is a comforting thought, for a moment) that intellectuals are considered fashionable these days. As I walk along the streets, I see so many young people carrying books under their arms (the titles prominently displayed), so many pairs of dark-rimmed glasses, so many laptops and paper cups full of coffee, so many pregnant pauses in the conversation, so much ruffled hair that suggests that the young man or woman in question was just leaning over a desk, head in hand, thinking and--

. . . well, I do believe that many of these characters seem at first glance rather appealing to a career academic who spends a lot of time with fountain pens and paintbrushes, but I wonder whether they are trying too hard, so to speak, to appear intelligent when there is a much easier (and perhaps cheaper) way. The quickest and easiest way to look like an intellectual is to actually be one!

It may sound as if that venture will require a ridiculous amount of time reading that could have been spent sitting in a coffee shop looking contemplative or talking to strangers in said coffee shop, but this is hardly true. Thirty minutes to an hour per day of serious study or practice is often enough time to be well on one's way to learning a new language, developing one's writing skills, or any other such intellectual pursuit (though more time spent intelligently will speed the process and allow for fine-tuning, certainly). The hours my generation spends lurking on the internet to merely pass time could equal great masterpieces of literature or art or astounding new findings in science-- it is one thing to use our online tools to connect with others, explore the creativity in the world, or share information, but quite another to spend all of one's free time in a state of internet-induced stupor (or, in fact, ennui). In order to be able to do something well, beyond having a bit of a natural aptitude for it, one must simply to do that thing consciously and regularly. . . we work on our computers consciously and regularly, so why not our language skills or our knowledge of mathematics or our ability to reason? I would think that trying to figure out how to dress like a "geek" without looking as awkward as one would be far more complicated.

1 comment:

Mair said...

What a lovely city you live in - I do envy you your cafe culture. I live on top of a hill with a lot of sheep who generally don't appreciate my erudite conversation,though some of them are pretty bright :) However, it is very restful and gives me lots of time to spend on learning ancient languages.

I do love your blog. It is beautifully designed. I have left you a few clicks on your very unobtrusive google ads and hope others who enjoy your writing will do the same :)