Running On Thin, Cracking Ice (or, another self-indulgent whine)

As those of you who know me personally would know, occasionally I am somewhat prone to bouts of introspective self-reflection, which essentially is no more than pathetic whining. It’s somewhat of a recurring theme. A website has even been made mocking it. And this posting is one of those, so forgive me for yet another instance of self-indulgence. I suggest you stop reading now. Really. Don’t go beyond the fold.

To the masochists who are still here, I was reminded the other night of a conversation I had pretty much exactly a year ago, one which, for my facebook friends (this was pre-blog days), was the impetus behind this posting. The thing I didn’t mention though was how it was triggered by a very specific conversation. And, what’s more, the ‘running on ice’ feeling that has shaped quite a few of my actions to date.

What do I mean by this (and I apologies that the best analogy I could think of at the time (although I feel it still holds). I mean in this conversation I was felt I was running along thin, cracking ice. Essentially I was having a great conversation with someone who was far, far more intelligent than I. Like there could be no comparison, and I’m smart enough to be able to recognise my own limitations. However, I was able to stand my ground and keep up. But it was like running along ice. I had no deep substantive comments to make, nothing profound, so rather, I would quip about deep issues, and quickly force the conversation along before my lack of knowledge was discovered. Essentially I would refer to a particular person or thing, convey the image of my knowledge of that subject, and quickly force the conversation along – before the ice cracked beneath me, so to speak. A giant con job.

Now, this is great for one or two conversations, and it would seem that the bluff worked, but it is hardly something to boast about.

So. Obviously a good reminder for me on things to work on.

And I think I’ve at least tried so far.

The first great attempt (made even before I left Australia) was the “Educating Tim” facebook note, where  I asked for reading recommendations, to attempt to get me to start reading properly again. Havn’t read most of them, but have made a good start, and have without doubt found it worthwhile. This is coupled with some more formal study attempts I have made. I took the Great Books 1 through Griffith University, and Philosophy, Morality and Society through Macquarie. This is of course not to mention my theological studies (which unfortunately I have had to take a break from due to time constraints), but I would like to think that I am doing that for reasons other than to hold a good conversation (even if moments of internal cynicism sometimes, and worryingly, suggest otherwise).

Secondly, I have tried to surround myself with people smarter and more knowledgeable than me. This has met with limited success, in that whilst I certainly know such people, I obviously still feel ‘outside’ their circles.  I quite liked the line Julian Sanchez once wrote “It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that if you think you’re the smartest person you know (and not a Nobel Laureate), you’re probably just not quite sharp enough to have brighter friends. In other words: just short of good-enough-to-suck.” Not because I think I’m the smartest person I know, but rather that I am acutely aware of how I fall short. It’s for this reason I often like making quips about Tantalus on facebook: I see that which I wish to be before me, but the more I try, the further it slips away from me.

And of course, there’s my blog. This hasn’t exactly worked as I intended. Whilst it was created with the desire for me to hone my writing skills, and improve the way I think generally, I think it has done little more than make me realise I’m far more a bomb-thrower, than an intellect.

And this, at the root of it, is the problem. No matter how much I want to be an intellectual, no matter how much I desire to learn and understand deeper concepts, at the end of the day, I’m just a politically-minded hack. Is this a bad thing? No, not at all – we need our hacks. But it is slightly disappointing that I could never manage any sort of academic or research career as I had previously contemplated.

The recognition of my

I remember having a conversation – many years ago – with someone who said I would only ever want to date someone who was like me. I responded no, I would only ever want to date someone who is that which I wish I was. Whilst this post is obviously not about dating, I think it’s an apt illustration of the difference between who I am, and who I wish I would be.

The lesson for me, I think, is twofold. Firstly, and most importantly, continue to thicken the ice. Become more intellectually rigorous, stop being so lazy, and get to work. Because it will be worth it. Secondly though, it’s accepting that I’ll never be some kind of great intellectual, after all, I was too lazy to properly take advantage of the uni courses – just did enough to pass the exam and write assessments – did nothing else (although still got a distinction lol). And … you know what… I’m just going to stop my train of thought writing here, and say, f**k that, I can dream. I am not going to accept that I’m limited. It may not happen, but I can always strive. I want to be not on ice but on land.

So the rest of this post can go shove it. Will keep on being depressed, and will keep on whining, because it’s the only real way forward.

Still, would be nice if people could help thicken the ice before me.


8 Responses to “Running On Thin, Cracking Ice (or, another self-indulgent whine)”

  1. David Says:

    Thanks Tim. First rule of thermodynamics: the more ice in a glass the less the booze is diluted.

  2. Tim Humphries Says:

    Rather apt considering the core premise of America is the the exploration and achievement of individual potential.

    Justice, rule of law, freemarkets, individualism and the ultimate goal of pursuing and achieving one’s own happiness!

    Then again it may just be naval gazing :=)

  3. Jake the Muss Says:

    Haha I’ve pretty much had the exact opposite thing happen to me over the last year. A profound anti intellectualism has descended upon me.

  4. Cathy Says:

    You seem to have left out a paragraph in the middle there.

    Cheer up Charlie. I’m sure you’re just the right amount of intellectual, and you’re overthinking it. Can’t you just BE, and ENJOY? If you don’t like where you are, change it. Start reading Communist zines and check out the personals in the back. Call that exciting. uninhibited woman who seeks a forward thinking comrade. Do something useful with your hands instead of blogging all the time.

    Also, don’t you have a job or something that you should be doing instead of sooking?

  5. Leon Bertrand Says:


    I think you are being a bit harsh on yourself here.

    You may feel that some of these people are way smarter than you, but that’s probably because they have read more than you. You can obtain the same levels of knowledge by doing research.

    Whether or not you are a smart as them really depends on whether you can understand the same texts they can.

    And even then, philosophy has its own jargon, so the more you read the more you understand.

    If you have already read Rand, try reading Hayek, Kant, Nietzsche or John Stuart Mill.

    Cheer up – you can yet be the person you want to be.

  6. Rachel Says:

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this ever since I read it a few days ago.

    I think you’re investing too much of yourself in this, Tim, or perhaps investing yourself in the wrong way. Being smart and knowledgable is great, but it’s not a competition and your tendency to measure yourself against others constantly (even if it’s usually favourably) worries me. It’s at once arrogant and self-defeating.

    Rather than dividing people into those that are less smart than you, and accordingly worthy of derision, and those who are smarter than you, and accordingly “better”, why don’t you just focus on researching, developing your ideas and getting them out there? What ideas do you want to develop?

    Given the circles you mix in, most people you meet are going to be fairly close to you in terms of both raw ability and the time they’ve devoted to developing that ability. Even the most high achieving, insanely intelligent people I meet are still fallible.

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  8. My Blog: One Year On « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC Says:

    […] The Fetish Of Happiness & The Damning Of The Different: My Indictment On Modern Society Running On Thin, Cracking Ice (or, another self-indulgent whine) Addiction Is […]

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