Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 14: Genghis Khan, Superpowers, Wisdom

In the deepest part of the woods was a stand of ferns.  I had just been reading in Donald Culross Peattie that the so-called "seed" of ferns was formerly thought to bestow the gift of invisibility on its bearer, and that Genghis Khan wore such a seed in his ring, "and by it understood the speech of birds." . . . 

Pretty cool little passage.  Dillard writing about superpowers.  Invisibility.  Understanding the language of feathers.  These few little sentences prove to me that everybody thinks about having extraordinary powers, even a Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer who can compose paragraphs that can literally, to quote Emily Dickinson, make me "feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off."

I'm not sure what superpower I would want.  Flying would be pretty cool, but limited.  Sure, I could fly across the Atlantic to have some fish and chips in London, but then I would just have to fly back and return to my normal life.  Super strength?  No thank you.  It would come in handy in the kitchen when the lid of a jar gets stuck, but who really needs to lift cars off the ground or leap tall buildings?  Invisibility would have attracted me as a teenager.  I wouldn't have minded slipping into the girls' locker room at school every once in a while.

When God offered to grant King Solomon a gift, Solomon didn't ask for great wealth or long life.  He didn't ask Yahweh to smite his enemies with syphilis or hangnails.  At the time, Solomon was really young, and he had just inherited the throne from his father, King David.  Solomon wasn't too sure he knew how to rule properly, so he asked God to grant him wisdom.  And God did.  Jehovah made Solomon the wisest person who ever lived.  (He still messed up plenty, worshiping other gods and lusting after too many women.  Wisdom and common sense are sometimes mutually exclusive.)

Despite Solomon's failings, I think wisdom would be a pretty awesome superpower.  To be able to discern the secrets of the universe like Einstein or write profound books like William Faulkner.  To be able to answer any question with truth and authority.  Everybody in Solomon's time knew he was the smartest guy around.  He would have killed on Celebrity Jeopardy.  That's my kind of superpower.

I'm teaching Intro to Film tonight.  I have to share my limited understanding of cinema.  The only saving grace is that I know quite a bit more than most of my students when it comes to movies.  Therefore, I will be Professor Solomon this evening, spreading the Gospel of Quentin Tarantino.  For a little while, anyway, I can pretend that I am the wisest person on the planet.  At least until about 9:30 p.m.

Then Saint Marty will go home to his wife and kids, and his teenage daughter will remind him that he's an idiot.

Super wisdom . . .

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