Sunday, 22 July 2007

Intellectual vs Intelligent

I'm intellectual all right, 100% intellectual, and I wish more than anything that it wasn't so. I really do mean that. There's a lot of misunderstanding and resentment on this subject as people tend somewhere down the line to equate intellectual and intelligent. As the years go by it is brought home to me with increasing force just how unintelligent I am. Not downright stupid but slow, slow, slow. But the fact remains that I am an intellectual, albeit a fifth rate one. (That reminds me of what James Thurber once said when someone once accused a friend of his of being fifth rate: "third rate, if you don't mind", Thurber muttered.) And it seems to me that, whatever their other qualities and failings, intellectuals pay a high price for their propensity to see the world in abstract terms. That price is often paid in the currency of depression in the midst of which I am currently floundering. I belong in fact to the school of English depressionists who essentially view life as one unending list of CHORES.
It is NOT a good thing to be so lopsided. I am really no better off than our next-door neighbour, Michel Foutoillet, whose horizon is limited to the contours of his garden.
And how do you know when you are coming out of depression? In my case, when you can start to cry again, when you are once again moved by music. This morning I listened to Sheryl Crow's beautiful Strong Enough and felt the tears well up, so perhaps help is on the way!


  1. Ah, Barnaby, I wish you well. I've been there--three times, I'm 67--, I have no words of wisdom for you, for me time was a big part in healing. Godspeed.

  2. My copy of "The Years with Ross" by James Thurber is not immediately at hand to exact quote, but in it Thurber writes that someone talking with Ross (Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker) referred to Thurber as a "fifth-rate cartoonist." Ross quickly said, "third-rate." Thurber was not present.

    You were pretty close.

    This is a delightful book, one I re-read every few years with pleasure; if you can get it, do yourself a favor and get it.

  3. You are quite right, lesle! Funny how memory can play tricks. I,too, love "The Years with Ross" and have read it several times. It's about time I read it again!