Philosophy and levity do battle | AspenTimes.com
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Philosophy and levity do battle

Tony VagneurAspen, CO Colorado

It was an odd relationship we had, almost from the beginning, and in a strange way, it never really ended, but she taught me the price of levity. I’m talking about the University of Northern Colorado and me.I went there to play football, but through an evolution almost as quick as the blink of the eye, my surly jock persona became that of a studious English literature major. In the exaggerated euphoria that comes with flexing muscle of your own volition, sans input from parents or peers, I developed my own manner – traveling under the radar, I thought – until the dean of the English department informed me that an “interesting” character such as myself probably bore some watching.I didn’t realize at the time there was anything remarkable about my “style,” and although certainly not a “hippie,” I had long hair and a beard, wore a thigh-length, cowhide leather coat with wool lining and incredibly wide shoulders that made me appear far more menacing than I was. My sloppy work boots were never tied. I rode a 1957 BSA 650 motorcycle to class every day and parked it about anywhere I wanted since there were only four bikes on campus.On a tour through northern Colorado one drunk and dreary night, I’d managed to pick up a couple jugs of raisin wine for 50 cents a gallon. Thinking it would take forever to polish off that awful swill, but unwilling to sacrifice the buck, I’d have a glass every morning for breakfast, which no doubt, gave me an aroma that, mixed with the gas and leaking oil from the motorcycle, was unforgettable in itself.And thus it was that I arrived at a certain 9 a.m. philosophy class for the midterm, my second actual visit to said gathering. The well-dressed professor cast a surprised glance my way, for he thought no one could pass his class without regular attendance. I had, through knowledge aforethought, borrowed the class notes from a “genius” fellow student, and that, coupled with my meticulous reading of the textbook, made me well prepared. The academician handed me the exam with a bit of a smirk and sat down immediately to my right, making sure any performance I gave was based purely on my own knowledge of the matter at hand.To make a lurid story short, I garnered the highest mark on the test, much to the professor’s consternation and true to my style, didn’t go back again until the final examination. Once more, I pulled it out of the air and proved my knowledge to be of stellar caliber, and on the board where the results were posted, saw that I had received an “A” for the semester.Walking into my apartment with the rarefied ego of one who knows he is smarter than the average Joe, I eagerly answered the ringing phone, looking for an opportunity to brag of my latest accomplishment. Instead, it was the professor I had so eloquently fenced with on the matter of philosophy, wanting to know if I would meet him at the student union for a cup of coffee.But, of course. Maybe he needed an assistant, or wanted to anoint my intelligence in some other suitable fashion. But what he said, very succinctly, was, “Mr. Vagneur, although you’ve gotten the highest possible score in this class, you did so without contribution or exhibiting any of the “pizzazz” I would expect from such an accomplishment. I respect you for your resourcefulness, but think you’ll agree that a “C” for the semester is more indicative of your true performance.”Somehow, I couldn’t argue and quickly realized that “average” is about as far as arrogance and lack of respect will ever get you.Tony Vagneur writes here every Saturday and welcomes your comments at ajv@sopris.net.


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