I flirted with the notion that I had been introduced to a true intellect the day I met George Johnns, and my intellectual interest in him was piqued by the idea that all I heard from him were snippets of information. If George Johnns could complete a thought, I figured he might be one of those that could add to my philosophy of life. He appeared to be one of those unusual intellects that a writer becomes obsessed with, until his essence can be determined. I developed something of an intellectual crush on George Johnns three to four days after meeting him and being introduced to his unusual habit of spouting curious soundbites that stay with a person for days, but if we were going to develop our philosophical relationship we would have to find some way to get around George Johnns’ unusual propensity for being interrupted.
George Johnns was not the type to bowl another over with his brilliance, but few true intellects are. Most of them have a quiet, simple intelligence that doesn’t involve the clutter of “Why?” questions. They’re more apt to ask “How?” and once they figure out how, they’re confused by the world of “Why?”
The idea that George Johnns was one of these people was made evident in the snippets he provided, but due to time constraints we were never permitted to find completed thought. The notion that he had led a fascinating life was also revealed in small doses. This led George Johnns to question authority more than the average person, and it led him to spot flaws in the young, aspiring company that most people that had not experienced as much as he had could not.
These characteristics were the reasons George Johnns and I got along so well, but they were belied by the fact that George Johnns had experienced a series of blows in life that led him to be so grateful to have a job that when a lecturer would begin a seminar, an authority figure would be walking near us, or an person of interest walking the opposite way, George Johnns would cut all conversation short with the concern that if they heard him “spouting nonsense” it might damage his future prospects, and it could even lead to his dismissal. I grew to loathe these interlopers without ever having met them, or been introduced to them formally or otherwise. I was just incensed that their presence kept me from learning of the intelligence that George Johnns had to offer me, intelligence that had only been hinted at to this point.
One could also tell that George Johnns was used to being the center of attention when tapping into story mode, but he often had a tough time getting to the heart of the story. He kept being interrupted by his laughter. I knew that I had an unforgettable character sitting before me, but the essence of his tale kept getting interrupted.
What I found through my experience with George Johnns, is that most people have a difficult time living up to their own billing. I would not say that any of the stories of George Johnns were lackluster, or boring, but compared to the sneak previews he provided before being interrupted, I couldn’t help but feel let down. I would never say that George Johnns was unintelligent, or even less intelligent than I am, for I consider it a fool’s errand to expend much effort on quantifying intelligence in this regard, but compared to the nuanced, creative thought he put into his sneak previews, I found myself disappointed by what he believed to be thorough intellectual refutation.
I did learn that George Johnns had devoted himself to some of the same subjects I had, and based on his experiences in life, he thought my theories were either incomplete or wrong. I was not insulted by this, far from it. I ached for the brilliance George Johnns only alluded to due to time constraints, until that day arrived when he have enough time in a day to grant me thorough intellectual refutation.
He would respond to one of my theories with: “That isn’t even half of it,” and he would say “Maybe I’ll tell you the whole truth one day … When we have some time to discuss it” when I was “Going down the wrong road” with my thoughts.
Most people, I can only guess, shut down when an intelligent naysayer informs them that their theories are wrong, or incomplete. Most people don’t have the confidence necessary to stare down dissent. Most people, when faced with an older, wiser individual will begin to retreat at the first sign of a worthy challenger. I have respect for my elders, and I have an insatiable curiosity for those that are wiser, but there are only so many sneak previews, snapshots, and interruptions one can withstand before the finished product is required.
George Johnns, more often than not, left his challenges as blanket dismissals. What began as inopportune sneak previews to thorough refutation became convenient interruptions that prevented exposure on a given topic. It was only in hindsight that I began to view these interruptions for what they were, by the time we got around to discussing the details of issues that had been deemed more complicated than I had ever considered, until I grew so frustrated with the notion that if George Johnns could ever be unleashed it would provide a shock to the philosophical system I called home, and we finally found time.
Having experienced few, true intellectuals in my life, I am not sure if George Johnns is emblematic of them, and their inability to deal with someone pushing them beyond their worldview through redirect, or if George had managed to emulate the air of the true intellectual without developing the intellectual capacity required for point, counterpoint refutation, but when we found the time necessary to discuss all the complications I hadn’t considered before, we found that they weren’t as complicated as we once thought. When we were finally afforded enough time to get to the bottom of George Johnns’ intellectual base, we found that it was littered with conventional wisdom, talking points, and anything and everything but nuanced creative thinking. It was a real life equivalent to getting all jacked up by previews, only to be disappointed by the finished product.