A Word to the Wise

A Greek Classics scholar wandered into our scotch club a few months ago, an aging fellow, tall, quick with a smile, very intelligent. He quickly earned the moniker, “The Professor.” When I discovered that he could read the Philosophers in the original Greek, my heart quickened with delight. “A fellow-traveler!” I thought. “At last, someone else who has gone through the skein of the institution to find himself enjoying the good life on the outside, without the travails of publish-or-perish!”

I’ve been writing for a blog called Sweet Talk, an homage to Deirdre McCloskey, making friends with a handful of guys who are exploring the virtues of Virtue Ethics as it applies to our Information Age. I play the curmudgeonly Wise Man to their Idealistic Philosophers, the yang of decadence to their yin of advancing human civilization. To wit: I’m translating Heraclitus and commenting on it in a kind of pastiche dialogue. Tons of fun.

I printed out my original Heraclitus post and brought it to the last scotch club meeting for The Professor to read. He glanced over it, handed it back to me and said, “Cute.” I was devastated.

Truly, I was hurt–and surprised.

I thought about it for a day until it finally occurred to me: I was usurping his happiness. I should have known in advance that he would not appreciate my overtures for an academic bromance because Resident Academic is his gig; who am I to make a claim to that throne? After years of “professional critique” and “peer review” (read: cutthroat competition), he is finally enjoying a retirement of warm adulation, performing to half-drunk hangers-on.

Rebuked, I have learned something this day.