Disciples

     “Every writer sooner or later becomes his own least intelligent disciple,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote when he was 84, in a story about his own death.
     Borges was among the most intelligent of writers. It is the fate of nearly all the rest of our poor, deluded species to seek little more than to become the unintelligent disciples of unintelligent men.
     Followers of every religion that ever slaughtered in the name of god come to mind, as do the followers of any political party or politician, and most of the writing tribe, one of whose primary virtues may be – though they are not willing to believe it – that so few of them will ever become popular.
     Among the most repellent of all the traits that disgrace today’s popular TV pundits – I will not mention their names, for the same reason I would not breed cobras – is that they seek disciples: that with every one of their venomous broadcasts and idiotic books, they proclaim themselves a disciple of themselves, and issue the horrifying invitation: Won’t you join me?
     And people do it.
     How many of these morons – many of whom work for Fox News – have ever expressed a moment of doubt, about anything? Which is to say, how many of them have ever displayed any sign of honesty, intelligence or real independence?
     I am a fan of President Obama, though I believe his economic policy is willfully weak and incoherent, that it truckles to banks and insurance companies, and that the only way it can be said to protect the common folk is by sacrificing us through slow trickles of our blood, rather than ripping out our hearts and intestines all at once.
     Still, I am sure the president knows things about these corrupt bastards that I don’t – for instance, that if he takes their stolen money away from the banks, if he takes any real steps to stop them from continuing the greatest theft of money in the history of the world, they are prepared to wreak even more catastrophe upon the nation and the world than they already have wrought.
     But one reason I like President Obama is that although he does have followers – disciples, if you will – in most of his speeches he refuses to say that he will save us from anything. He suggests we do what we think is right. How modest. And intelligent. And for most human beings, how unthinkably, horribly frightening.
     Unthinkable is precisely the word.
     I shall always remember the night I became a leader with disciples. It was in my sophomore year at Reed College. My friend Terry and I were sitting around the coffee shop, bored, and I said, let’s start a party. So we traipsed off to the dorms, the two of us, shouting, “Party! Let’s have a party!”
     There is only one required course at Reed College – Humanities 110 – and everyone must write a Hum 110 paper every two weeks during freshman year. It happened to be the night before the first Hum 110 paper was due, and most of the freshmen – the primary occupants of the dorms – were hard at work on it. This slowed down the party in its early stages, but as more people joined us, shouting, “Party! We’re having a party!” more and more people threw down their pens and joined the party. Some grabbed a bottle of wine, or a bag of weed, and the party grew.
     After an hour or so we had more than 100 people traipsing around campus, shouting, “Party! We’re having a party!” They shared joints and swigged wine. We passed under the arch in Eliot Hall and Terry and I stepped aside and watched them file past, smoking, drinking, some singing with their arms linked, having a hell of a time. Terry and I stared at one another and shook our heads.
     The crowd stopped under a lamp. They turned looked at us and shushed up. Terry went out to talk to them. He returned in a few seconds and said, “They want you to tell them what to do next.”
     So I went and harangued them. “I’m not going to tell you what to do!” I shouted. “You’re a party! Be a party!”
     The party broke up justlikethat. People straggled back to their dorms, some of them grumbling, as I recall, “What an a–hole.”
     Terry and I walked around the campus, talking about what had just happened. After half an hour or so, we saw all that was left of the party: two guys crouched on the ground in the canyon, sharing a joint.
     They looked up as we passed. They recognized me.
     They cheered.

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