(Graduation Day at the University of Utah, 2004)
It’s graduation week at BYU (where the academic year ends earlier than at most universities), and suddenly I am reminded of an embarrassing incident from my life that occurred almost three years ago, when I was working as a foreclosure lawyer in southwest Virginia.
As if it weren’t bad enough that I was regretting my own academic and professional shortcomings, suddenly a tooth began to ache, so I paid a visit to a local dentist, who had the nerve to tell me that in my obviously aching nerve was nothing wrong. It also happened to be graduation week at Virginia Tech, where my wife was teaching, so my thoughts were a whirlwind of dentistry and college commencement ceremonies.
After several long, stressful days in a row, I felt exhausted when I finally clocked out on Friday evening. I needed to unwind. My writing juices began to bubble and froth. I donned a false facade and postured ironically as a pompous but shallow academic know-it-all. Suddenly from deep within the abyss of my disturbed mind erupted forth the following nearly incoherent nonsense, which I promptly posted on my personal Facebook page and which I reproduce here (slightly tweaked) for the benefit of the curious, as well as those in the psychological sciences.
*****START OF WACKY RAVINGS FROM 2014*****
May 23, 2014
A Time for Reflection upon Robes, Ribbons, and Self-Congratulating Intellectual Windbags
During this special season of commencement ceremonies and politically correct platitudes and persecutions, I would like to take this opportunity to bestow upon myself yet another academic title. Therefore, by these various and sundry presents, and without omitting the requisite excessive prolix legalisms and other verbiage—(pleonastic and bombastic, I always say!)—I hereby give, enfeoff, bargain and sell, lease and release, surrender, remise, bequeath, devise, yield up, alienate, confirm, assign, covenant to stand seised, quitclaim, grant, convey, and with all other conceivable and inconceivable banal and bogus blather confer upon myself the most exalted degree of Honorary Doctor of Hypochondria. (What would a little lawyer be if he could not plaster the printed page with a pleasing plethora of platitudinous pleonasms?)
Thank you, thank you. Oh, you’re too kind. Stop, really—the applause is embarrassing! Please, I beg you, all of you. And I thank you all again with gushing gratitude for being here on this delightful day when everything is exclusively about me. From now on, you beloved bootlicking lackeys may refer most obsequiously to yours truly as Herr Doktor A. J. Extraordinaire.
Two years ago my distinguished colleagues honored me as the grand pooh-bah valedictorian of valetudinarians for my groundbreaking and seminal master’s thesis entitled “Suicide by Sucrose Saturation of the Overloaded Liver, Pancreas, and Kidneys of the Aging and Soon-to-Be-Crepitating American Alpha Male: A Delicate Disquisition on Gluttony-Induced Diabetes for Practitioners of Post-Gestational Geriatric Gerontology.”
Flattered though I was back then, now I can strut my freshly unfurled feathers as a hyperbolic hypochondriac of the highest rank. Move over, Mr. Peabody—the prancing peacock is on parade!
And just what exactly, you may ask, has prompted this great achievement?
A visit to the dentist’s office.
I lay supine, comfortably reclined and fully self-satisfied upon the examination chair, and tried my best to convince that dentist and his hygienist that I had tooth decay and cavities and all kinds of chronic calamities of the oral extraction, but they would not believe it. Just as I had desperately attempted to convince a medical doctor prior to my master’s thesis two years ago that I teetered on the brink of death as a hopelessly sick man. But he would have none of it either.
I went to law school for four years and achieved an astounding mediocrity in the one-part science, nine-parts art, and ninety-parts chutzpah of jurisprudence. My broad spread of grades proves it. That simple fact makes me an expert on absolutely everything, both within and outside of my specialty, including the mercurial medical sciences—physical, mental, dental, and parental.
What is with these ignoramus healthcare people? I sashayed on into that shiny-tooled office and poured forth my vast knowledge of endodontics, Hooked-on-Phonics, and highfalutin histrionics, trying to help this so-called doctor to understand how to do his job, but in the end, all that he and his pleasant assistant could do was to tell me that I brush my teeth too much. Then they quietly and politely, but also most impatiently, ushered me out the door.
“Hacks! Charlatans!” I yelled over my shoulder as I stomped off in a huff. Nobody ever listens to me. It was just like the time I was lecturing an engineer about how to build a supersonic airplane, like the time I was explaining to a nuclear physicist how to improve H-bomb design, or the time I was explicating the intricacies of heart surgery to a cardiologist friend of mine. Here I am trying to make the world a better place, and no one will listen to me.
Sometimes I feel that I am the only person in the whole world who knows anything about medicine, health, and nutrition. I was really hoping that they would pull out the jackhammer and the dynamite and take care of that tooth.
After I got home, my thoughts turned toward Naaman the Syrian, so I swallowed my considerable pride and sloshed around that fluoride rinse that the hygienist had recommended. Man oh man, that stuff was nasty! Only something really healthy and good for you could possibly be so utterly repugnant. Forget about teeth—that concoction could blast the enamel off a freshly painted model car.
But I suppose I should not be too offended at the Lilliputians with their X-rays, chisels, water guns, and mini-spears. In fact, it felt good to have other people paying attention (albeit brief) to my imaginary concerns and fussing over my tartar buildup and receding gum lines. It was nice. It makes me want to do postdoctoral work in Munchausen Syndrome.
But that sabbatical will have to wait a couple of years more, until I garner the necessary resources for yet another academic degree.
In the meantime, I will have to satisfy myself with the curious sounds of southwest Virginia—the quiet breeze laced with the chirping of a cricket in a swamp at night, suddenly interrupted by the risible ribaldry of a man-eating bullfrog’s rip-roarious ribbitting. Shuh-ZA-yum! I can just picture that bubbly throat bulging to the popping point while enormous, glossy eyeballs gaze upward into nothing. Now that’s my kind of conversationalist.
By the way, speaking of intellectuals, when the angels were building my brain before I was born, back when they had my skull splayed wide open before them under the bright operating-room lights of the everlasting supernovas, not only did they leave a few screws unfirmly fastened, but one of them dropped his plumber’s wrench.
No, there was no pain—there are no sensory nerve endings in the brain, silly! But it bounced off the gray matter of my thin cerebral cortex and lodged itself deep in the crevice between the two hemispheres, where it plopped smack down on my tiny little underdeveloped corpus callosum. Ooh! It has been impinging on my amygdala ever since. Just thinking about it ratchets up the old limbic system and makes me emotional.
Anyway, congrats to the grads, and don’t forget us little people as you move on to bigger things.
*****END OF WACKY RAVINGS FROM 2014*****
Three years later, as I look back on this mishmash of mush, I have to wonder just how much damage that plumber’s wrench did. Certainly a considerable amount.
At least I can assure the public that unlike my mental health, my dental health is holding up—in fact, just recently my dentist said to me, “Whatever you’re smoking, keep smoking it.”
But enough about brain surgery and dentistry.
To all those graduating from BYU this week, and to all those who will be graduating soon from other institutions of higher learning, I wish you the very best. In all your ladder-climbing, remember to pause once in a while to smile and to laugh and to reflect upon the good things in life, because in spite of life's inevitable challenges, it has its positive aspects as well.
At times it can be very good indeed.
(After a graduation ceremony at the University of Virginia in 2014)