How to recognize an intellectual

PERSONS are frequently kept awake at night by questions they cannot answer. Can I pay the rent this month is one such question. Or, just where is Nicaragua? But one question that probably bothers men and women more than any other is: Am I an intellectual? If I am an intellectual, how can I know? If I am not an intellectual, then why am I even thinking about this problem? When I was growing up - in those halcyon days of the 1950s - to be called an intellectual would be an insult of the highest order. Eisenhower was not an intellectual; Adlai Stevenson was. That is why the '50s are called the Eisenhower Era and not the Stevenson years. Of course, the term intellectual was seldom used. I believe the correct term of opprobrium was egghead. Or sissy. In high school we wore large sweaters, not because it was cold but because we needed loose clothing to hide books under. Only a proto-communist would dare to carry a book that was not assigned by a teacher.

But the '50s have passed. Today, because of the wonders of science, there is now a sure-fire way to tell the intellectual from the non-intellectual.

According to the New York Daily News, Gilbert Simon of the University of California at Davis contends that babies of intellectual parents cry more. This is because intellectual parents are too reluctant to pick their babies up and comfort them. Unintellectual parents instinctively pick up a crying baby and hug it. Parents who think a lot tend to delay comforting the child.

I have been thinking a lot about Dr. Simon's findings, and I believe he's right. Take for instance what happened to the children of Leo Tolstoy (I lift the scene from an unpublished biography):

Leo Tolstoy is at his writing desk. We hear a baby crying. Enter Mrs. Tolstoy.

Mrs. Tolstoy: Leo, Leo, our little dumpling is crying.

Tolstoy (scribbling at a furious pace): Dumpling? What do you mean by dumpling?

Mrs. Tolstoy: Our daughter Sashanovich.

Tolstoy: Daughter? When did you give birth to a daughter?

Mrs. Tolstoy: You know you asked not to be disturbed. You're right in the middle of a great book - ``Crime and Punishment'' - and I know you are always thinking deep thoughts....

Baby continues its wailing.

Tolstoy: Dostoyevsky wrote ``Crime and Punishment.''

Mrs. Tolstoy: Then why are you wasting your time writing it again?

Baby continues its wailing.

Tolstoy: I'm not writing it again. I'm writing my own book. But how can I get any work done with all this noise?

Mrs. Tolstoy: Perhaps I should pick up the baby.

Tolstoy: No. Never. A thousand times no.

Baby continues its wailing.

Mrs. Tolstoy: But, my babushka, why not?

Tolstoy: Somebody might see you and then we won't be taken seriously by the Committee of Writers and Thinkers. Let a serf comfort the thing.

Mrs. Tolstoy: But you freed the serfs.

Tolstoy: I did? When did I do that?

Mrs. Tolstoy: It was a new intellectual theory of yours.

Baby continues its wailing.

Mrs. Tolstoy: Maybe if I just patted Sasha's head a little.

Tolstoy: Don't touch the baby! I am a thinker; you are a thinker. We have better things to do with our time.

Mrs. Tolstoy (kissing her husband): You are absolutely right, my little glasnost.

The baby continues to cry.

Lights out.

By now you get the idea. I would continue quoting from the yet to be published biography, but my own children are beginning to cry. And so I have to go - not to them, of course, but to the library, where I can get some peace and quiet. Picking up children only leads to stupidity. First you pick them up and then next you'll be telling them you love them and then one thing will lead to another, and soon you won't get any serious thinking done at all. Quiet down in there, willya?

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