Literacy makes me feel superior to wealthy people
from the Autumn 2008 issue

French author Jules Renard wrote in his Journals that “The profession of letters is the only one in which one can makes no money without being ridiculous.” As an extremely well-educated individual, I am intimately familiar with Renard and have taken this quotation to heart. Making money is not important to me. Or, at any rate, I understand that it is not the only important thing. Other things, like the satisfying sense of superiority I feel when I meet people who are not as well read as me, are far more important.

I’ve noticed that people who make more money than me often fail to understand the significance of Søren Kierkegaard’s observation in Fear and Trembling that “Our times are not satisfied with faith, and not even with the miracle of changing water into wine—they ‘go right on’ changing wine into water.” Rich people, as they order their $700 bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux to accompany their $105 Duo of Dry Aged Beef, clearly don’t understand Kierkegaard. I do. That’s why I’m a better person.

Many of my highly literate friends feel intimidated by richer people. I’m not sure why this occurs, but it’s not a problem for me. If you respect people because of how much money they have, you have lost all concept of the things that really matter in life, like my thoughts.

It is important not to passively accept respect for money and not for literature. I work actively to promote disdain for rich people. Just the other day I was in a coffee shop in which I spotted several people in suits discussing what they wished to do next in their careers as hedge fund managers or something. As they took out their Blackberries, presumably to find out how much money they were making that minute, I coughed loudly and rustled the pages of the book I was reading, Franz Kafka’s The Castle. Now, the richer people in suits may have believed that I had something in my throat. They perhaps thought that I was passive-aggressively asking them to quiet down. But I suspect that they understood the point that I was really making. I’m pretty sure they felt my superiority. I slept quite soundly that night, because I don’t have any money. People admire me for that.

Unless you get a big book contract—which I fully expect to do once I have time to finish my novel, an exploration of the sexual endeavors among American graduate students of Persian descent, tentatively titled The Shah’s Harem—having a large amount of money is destructive to the creative impulse. And I have a highly developed creative impulse.

Franklin Worrell is a waiter in Brooklyn, New York

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