Dumb and Dumber

August 01, 2011

There are vaccines for smallpox, polio and tuberculosis. Flu shots and inoculations against all sorts of unspeakable are in plenteous supply. But there is no such remedy for being dumb. Personal pedigree is no guarantee. Academic degrees do not prevent it.

I do not speak of mental or physical challenges brought through birth or illness. What I describe here is often perpetrated by those with the highest measurable IQs. I need only dip into my distant collegiate past to illustrate how dumbness can be cultivated in the very crucible of academia.

It could be the fire pole which swiftly transported tardy young men from the upper floors of the dorm to the worship hall — at least until an enterprising young profligate smeared a wide band of honey around the shaft about 6 feet from the bottom. The braking effect on bodies hurtling downward was breathtaking.

Or it might be the sophomore theology student with too much time on his hands who drilled a hole through to the dorm room next door and connected his own stereo amp to his neighbor's loudspeakers.

Then there was the physics major, working clandestinely in the dark to install a remote volume control inside the church organ. His surreptitious ministrations from the balcony a few days later caused inexplicable things to happen during chapel, to the chagrin of the horrified organist. The inscription "Physics Dept" etched into the handle of a screwdriver inadvertently left inside the organ led to his eventual demise.

Sure they're dumb, and perhaps juvenile. We chuckle, though, because some of us have similar shenanigans under our belts.

But there is dumb and there is dumber. Paul's admonishment is key: "When I was a child, I spake as a child ... but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Some continue to struggle with that transition. The ubiquitous social media so many of us use highlighted this recently. Rep. Weiner's misuse of "key texts" is a clear reminder that increased age and a vast store of knowledge, do not always add up to an advanced degree in wisdom.

But think twice before you pile on the minister, professor or politician who lays bare his or her human frailties. Those who slip from dumb to dumber, sometimes in the most public ways, reap their reward without us even casting the first stone.

Our responsibility lies closer to home, with the potential log in our own eye. With our computers or mobile devices constantly at hand, it's far too easy to let an irreverent moment slip out to worlds unknown. More than ever before, our digital world demands we live with transparent integrity.

So, why not instead embrace the age-old principle in Proverbs 11:25. To paraphrase: "A word fitly spoken, a photo thoughtfully sent, an action carefully considered, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."

Thinking of an investment in gold or silver? Try a word fitly spoken.

"A word fitly spoken, a photo thoughtfully sent, an action carefully considered, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."