Rendered Fat Content


Illustration of a village idiot from The Firebird and the Fox: Russian Culture Under Tsars and Bolsheviks,
Freedom and the Fool (Chapter 1), Cambridge University Press, 2019 (Late 19th Century Russian)

"I remain grateful for how few brains are required to live the good life here."

Contrary to a popular misconception, I have not yet achieved the lofty label of CompleatIdiot. Oh, if only I could advance to that pinnacle, but I'm unlikely to ever get there, regardless of how diligently I pursue that goal. I settle for a more modest and fitting general idiot standing instead, one which serves most of the purposes of the CompleatIdiot status, anyway. I say that I'm not a CompleatIdiot without in any way intending to denigrate the native honor associated with the idiot designation, but to rather proudly include myself as a member in decent standing of this uniquely useful class comprised of the idiots of this world. Before I'd come to terms with just what an idiot I tend to be much of the time—not all of the time, mind you, for the ability to perform continuous idioting belongs only to CompleatIdiots—I'd try to hide my little secret as if it was really a secret to anyone watching me perform. An utterly fruitless effort, but one I still felt compelled to engage in, for I imagined that if others knew the truth about my native deep down idiocy, they might think less of me. My sense of inadequacy bloomed, anyway, for no-one successfully fools those in the presence of a genuine idiot. Only after I came to accept this secret as already public knowledge, did I start discovering its power.

The idiot holds advantage in innumerable ways.
For me, it seems as useful as armor. It serves as a sticks-and-stones-might-break-my-bones-but-words-can-never-harm-me reminder of just how invulnerable I remain to glazed eyes, furrowed brows, and even the occasional harsh words. I make a fool of myself on a regular basis, regular as clockwork, but I anticipate these events and so experience them as more confirmation than embarrassment. I can even go into the glass shop with one of my antique double hung windows expecting to be treated like the idiot I doubtless am from chasing windmills and restoring century old wood when a wiser man would have already switched to vinyl or fiberglass frames. Just to egg on their reaction, I wear my mask into that dedicated mask-free and unvaccinated zone. (Tony had previously confessed that he'd never agree to be vaccinated.) So, I'm so obviously an idiot on entry that I sense that I've deliberately goaded their loathing which washes over me more like a reward than any sort of embarrassment.

The payoff comes from the freedom that accompanies idiocy. I feel free to ask any question without regard to how thoughtful it might seem. I need not feel in any way intimidated by whatever I might need to say, for I carry the Get Out Of Jail Free pass. I'm so obviously an idiot then that my stupid question seems to disarm these real men, who often treat me more like a child than an embarrassment to their gender, as if mine were truly the innocent question and not clear evidence (as if any more evidence were needed) that I actually was an idiot. I receive my answer with the groveling appreciation of any odd street beggar and proceed on my way, for I probably have several errands to run that day and my idiocy spreads thin. I might need to demonstrate further at the butcher's, the paint store, the gas station, and the supermarket, each venue demanding a unique approach lest native intelligence become too evident. With luck, I might even manage to break the POS credit card reader and be forced to pay cash, holding up the checkout line for several frustrating minutes, an act which cannot help but scream that they're dealing with an idiot up there.

Such satisfactions aside, the practical benefit of feeling free to ask virtually any question feels endlessly liberating. I no longer need to judge with whom I'm speaking. I presume that they're much smarter than I, and things tend to go swimmingly. My evident humility tends to communicate that I'm no threat, that I'm in no way attempting to initiate a pissing contest to prove who's smarter. I cede that questionable advantage from the outset. You're the genius. I'm the idiot. "Now, where have you hidden the ice picks?" I ask. The genius clerk blinks twice before suggesting that an awl might be more to my liking. "Oh, yes," I reply (delighted!), "I'd forgotten all about awls!" He points me to an aisle and a bay, and I make my way over there. I see no awls in that display, so I tuck in my native humiliation and trudge back to where the genius works. He snorts only a tiny bit before walking me like a kindergarten kid around to where I could not find it. "We're out of stock," he finally declares. "Perhaps these lock picks could substitute." I thank him profusely for his suggestion then proceed to purchase a set of pick I'm certain I'll never use. Several days later, I have not yet opened that package.

My days are spent in a sweet content, confident that I need never exhibit even the barest shred of my native intelligence, for I am an idiot, not a CompleteIdiot of course, but enough of one to never want for high entertainment. I need not even go out to receive another confirming jolt of just what an idiot I remain. I might forget that whatever I'm doing always remains some part of larger wholes, and complete one task only to realize that I've just encumbered the next. Easily distracted, I'm always apt to set something down and thereby forever lose it. Later, I'll find it, but only after I'll never need it again. I hurt myself sometimes. I catch a sliver completely due to my inattention. I remain always ready and able to ruin supper due to some stupid little detail I'd somehow overlooked, like turning on the oven or forgetting the key ingredient. My days unfold in surprising sequences, always different than imagined. Before I'd come to grips with the true nature of it, I'd fruitlessly attempted to avoid any demonstration of my God-given talent. Now, of course, it's just par for the course and people have just grown to expect some small calamity or the stupidest question they're ever received when they see my shadow cross their threshold. Me, too. I think of my idiocy as a gift The Gods have granted me, and while I no longer aspire to ever achieve the peak CompleatIdiot designation, I remain grateful for how few brains are required to live the good life here. The fewer the better, I've always suspected.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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