One Of My Favorite Writers

into-the-twilight.jpgI’m working on a couple of posts that are rather heavy, one on AIDS orphans, and I’m in need of a little levity. When that happens I often pick up a book by one of my favorite authors, Patrick F. McManus. Here is a portion of a story from, Into The Twilight, Endlessly Grousing. (If, by some astronomical chance, either Mr. McManus, or his laywers, or his publisher read this, I beg forgiveness instead of permission. I’m just trying to win you more readers!)

Hunting the Wily Avid

No greater bond exists between two male friends than shared ignorance. It’s wonderful. Shared knowledge is fine as far as it goes but one friend invariably knows more about a given topic than the other, thereby creating an intellectual imbalance. Shared ignorance on the other hand provides for perfect equilibrium. It is limitless. There is no end of topics for conversation based on mutual ignorance.

I have several really good pals with whom I share ignorance. We converse for hours about subjects we know nothing about. With most of my friends actual knowledge about a topic would lead to either very short conversations or even arguments that might grow bitter and ultimately destroy friendships.

“Why that’s not true.”
“Who says?”
“I say”
“Let’s look it up in the Guinness Book of World Records. There, see, I’m right, you moron! Ha ha ha ha!”

Arguments like that never arise when two friends enjoy shared ignorance of a topic.

“You know what’s causin’ all these earthquakes? It’s that hole in the ozone.”
“You’re right about that. It’s lettin’ in too much gravity.”
“Gravity, yeah, way too much of it. Gravity keeps buildin’ up and buildin’ up, and pretty soon, you got your earthquakes.”
“You’re right about that ol’ buddy.”

If either friend knew anything at all about holes in ozone, gravity, or earthquakes, he would be under an unrestrained compulsion to reveal this bit of knowledge and the conversation would abruptly end. Furthermore, an element of distrust would enter the relationship, because one of the friends would feel insecure in happily discoursing away on a topic he knows absolutely nothing about. He would be in constant fear of exposing his ignorance to assault by an actual thought or fact.

Eighty-seven percent of all conversations between friends are based on shared ignorance. It’s true. That’s the reason so many friendships last a lifetime. There’s even a procedure for testing a friend’s ignorance on a topic to see if it matches your own. It goes something like this.

“George, you know anything about the national debt?”
“Naw. You?
“Naw. But I’ll tell you what causes it. Too much gravity.”
“You got that right, ol’ buddy.”

After running their little test on shared ignorance, the two friends can then discourse in mutual confidence on a topic about which neither of them knows the slightest thing.

There, I feel a little better.


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