Intellects ‘should constantly disturb’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 20, 2001

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."

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– Albert Einstein

Last week, a letter to the editor writer commented on what I assumed was my lack of intellect and then went on to note Lee Bonorden’s intellect.

I made a point to tell Lee to read the letter.

The letter did make me think how one determines what qualifies as a person to be intellect. Growing up in Austin, especially in my class, which is coming up on its fourth 10-year reunion, had few examples – maybe John Glynn or Bruce MacLaren. Then there was Judith Warmemem who answered every question Mr. Johnson asked in fourth grade.

Darryl Gates, who graduated a year ahead of us, struck me as possibly being one. He used a lot of words that I never heard before. I assumed he read a lot. He also wore those the thick Buddy Holly glasses that made him look like an "intellectual."

I remember when my sister, Carol, was in high school and she always talked about the Viste boys. They sounded like they were really smart.

In junior college, Mr. Ruppert could have been one. Ruppert could lecture and keep our interest in American government without ever using notes and the lecture never came from the book. He also gave essay tests.

Reading over an old blue book essay test I found a few years ago, I’m sure Ruppert wondered if I had a mind at all.

In high school I brought home Cs on my report card, in fact I had to amend one grade my junior year to even reach that level. My mother said – (I will always remember and appreciate this) "Cs are average and that’s OK."

Of course, this was before Garrison Keillor came along with his community "where all the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are ‘above average.’"

Now, if you are a kid, it’s tough being average – at least as far as parents are concerned.

One of the best descriptions of what an intellect is responsible for comes from Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright, essayist and president of the Czech Republic: "The intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden and open pressure and manipulations, should be the chief doubter of systems, of power and its incantations, should be a witness to their mendacity. For this reason, an intellectual cannot fit into any role that might be assigned him, nor can he ever be made to fit into any of the histories written by the victors. An intellectual essentially doesn’t belong anywhere: he stands out as an irritant wherever he is, he does not fit into any pigeon hole completely."

There’s a Bonorden ring to that.

Richard Eberhart, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet of Austin, I suspect, would be considered an intellect, as well as his childhood pal, Roger Catherwood.

By reading Havel’s writings and an article on "Interpreting Vaclav Havel" I’m finding his influences to be Hus, Masaryk and Patocka who too, were very capable and incidentally good Czechs.

Here is another thought Havel expresses that I think applies more than ever, "The most important thing is not to lose sight of personal relationships – the relationship between man and his co-workers, between subordinates and their superior, between man and his work, between this work and its consequences, and soon."

I’d like to congratulate George Thomas and the diverse panel for the town hall meeting at the library March 8 addressing diversity. The room was packed, the information informative, the discussion fruitful and the opportunity that lies ahead exciting.

Linda Lares, who has worked for years in Albert Lea and Freeborn County, said while leaving – with a smile on her face, she was jealous of what all Austin is doing. She said the meeting had impressed her so she almost wished she could come to Austin to be part of it.

Nitaya Jandragholica, court interpreter, also did a nice job of making the majority of townspeople get a grasp of what it means for people to come to a community where everything is foreign including language, laws, all that stuff that Norwegians take such pride in organizing and reminds me of what Russ Wangen, who was in attendance, once shared, "Americans have watches but Africans have time."

It’s my understanding that people in the community interested in being involved in community circle discussions – based on the earlier work of the League of Women Voters, can call George Thomas at the Welcome Center at 434-2863.

Bob Vilt’s column appears Tuesdays. Call him at 434-2236 or e-mail him at