The Tomato in the Fruit Salad

Dearest Rachel –

Well, I have no idea where that came from. Obviously, our university experience wasn’t nearly so unpleasant, but there you are.

I literally just woke up from chasing down a professor, who made it abundantly clear that anyone who arrived at his classroom later than he did would be immediately locked out, and forbidden from participating in that day’s class. The trouble was that said professor was a.) an insufferable know-it-all (think Jim Parson’s Sheldon Cooper from ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ and you’ll get the picture) who thought of both himself and his subject matter as the be-all and end-all of academic study, and b.) the man walked across campus at a pace so brisk that one needed to be on the track team in order to even so much as keep up with him, let alone pass him en route to the lecture hall where his class was held. I’ve just gone from scenes of students attempting parkour to maintain his pace, including jumping from railings several stories up to reach his level, knocking over co-eds discussing vapidly where to have lunch, to him rushing into the lecture hall with a stampeding crowd behind him, quickly opening the door, dashing in, and closing it behind him with a slam and a twist of the lock, only to turn around to face a completely empty lecture hall.

I have absolutely no idea what any of that was supposed to mean, but I guess it was entertaining, in a sort of slapstick sitcom sort of way. The only problem is, I’m not a big fan of either sitcoms or slapstick. Well, maybe slapstick; after all, the three of us would gather around the television on Saturday evenings to watch Stooge-a-palooza back in the day. But the stooges were decidedly lower class characters coming from a position of general powerlessness, ultimately sticking it to The Man; the oppressed, rather than the oppressors. This smug, self-important Einstein-wannabe who was the source and cause of the chaos on campus was decidedly coming from the opposite direction; a position of power, doing the best he can to make sure that the students who paid handsomely to learn from him would not get that chance, and therefore not get their money’s worth.

I honestly don’t know how often how long this could go on – especially with the fellow winding up with empty lecture rooms day after day – before it became clear that the man was actually avoiding his responsibilities of teaching the next generation his class, and relieved of his duties (which presumably, was what he wanted all along, so that he could study and research, rather than teach the unwashed masses who were hardly worthy of his beautiful mind).

There’s something to be said for trying not to be the smartest person in the room. Even if you are – and you know it – it’s probably safest to keep it to yourself. Odds are, you’re wrong anyway.

I have always appreciated the book of Ecclesiastes, where Solomon – arguably the smartest person of his day – claimed that it was better not to pursue too much learning. Better to have balance between folly and wisdom, just like the fact that it was better to have a handful of work and a handful of rest as opposed to two hands full of work. He literally says “Why ruin yourself?” as he expounds on this.

Keep in mind, this is the man who led Israel to its golden age, both in terms of territory and splendor. He also knew the value of training the next generation to take care of all that responsibly, even as he realized that in the end, he had no control of whether he was going to hand over his kingdom to a wise man or a fool.

And, as it turned out, he did hand it over to a fool. Not that Solomon had actually read the room correctly himself; for all that he’d built up his kingdom to a glory unmatched by kings before or after, it seemed that – quite possibly unbeknownst to him – the people, or at least most of them, were on the verge of rebellion, and all it took was one stupid answer on the part of his son to screw it all up forever. There were flashes of greatness for either kingdom subsequently – apparently, the archaeological record suggests that Omri, Ahab’s father, did very well by the kingdom of Israel, materially speaking – but of course, the Bible only sees in terms of spiritual matters. Scripture dismisses him with a few lines, including the basically universal line for kings of Israel, that he ‘did evil in the sight of the Lord,’ and that’s all the reader really needs to know about him.

Even Solomon, for all his vaunted wisdom, fell aside along the way, which begs the question as to whether he was truly wise in the first place. If wisdom can’t prevent you from making stupid mistakes, do you even have wisdom, bro?

The Internet in the 21st century has come up with a few interesting takes on the difference between intelligence (or knowledge) and wisdom. The late British journalist Miles Kington is credited with claiming that the first is understanding that a tomato is a fruit, while the second is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad (with an additional addendum claiming that philosophy was a matter of wondering whether a bloody Mary counts as a smoothie). Probably not the sort of things that ever occurred to Solomon. Similarly, there is an uncredited remark that suggests one is knowing that carrots are good for your eyes, and the other is knowing not to apply them directly – which I dare say is what Rehoboam basically did.

You’ll have to forgive the meandering thoughts, honey – I’m just trying to make sense out of my dream, and tie it into something maybe slightly useful. Clearly, it’s only slightly. I suppose the wisest course of action at this point is to just get up and start my day.

I’ll keep in touch. Until next time, keep an eye out for me.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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