Today, by way of a break, I’ll tell you a little tale about how intellectuals fight.
I’ve often been accused of living too much inside my head — to which I reply, well, where else would I live, that’s where all the thoughts, emotions and sensual detail are processed and stored.
My wife, Liz, is pretty bright herself (a bit of an understatement – she’s frigging brilliant) so when we fight it tends to have a cerebral component. Now we don’t fight often but the few fights we have had are memorably, especially the first big one about 14 years ago.
We had been together just over a year and it hadn’t been easy in some ways because of the circumstances of our coming together but we were happy and mostly at peace with ourselves. Still, there had been some growing tension.
But it took John A. Macdonald to bring it out. We were driving to our writing group meeting in Calgary. CBC was playing an interview with a noted historian about how little Canadians knew about their history. The subject of our first PM came up and Liz took the ‘great man’ position on his importance whereas I argued he was a product of ‘forces of history.’ So she believed John A. made history and changed the world whereas I argued that history made the man and changed him. We were of course both right but that’s not much fun
By the time we got to the meeting it had devolved into a screaming match — bringing in some more recent history but still revolving around the central dispute. It was clear that people with such diametrically opposed world views could never be together. At one point, I threw the car keys at her and stomped off home. By the time she found the keys and drove off some of her anger, she came to our apartment to find me packing my bags. “Are you really going to leave me over John A. MacDonald?” she wailed. I stopped and thought. Of course not! Leave the woman I love over a dead drunken CONSERVATIVE prime minister. We laughed and hugged and talked about the real things that were bothering us.
A couple of years later I was at a political convention (Liberal in case you’re wondering) and a young entrepreneur was selling PM action figures. I couldn’t resist — I bought the one of John A. MacDonald. And whenever fights seem to be about to escalate, we bring him out and ask: What would John A. do? It must work, we’ve rarely had a fight since.
So that’s how intellectuals fight. Just as crazily as anyone else.
And that’s ten minutes.