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Profiles in Personality

29 Nov

Every year I teach, somehow, Don Marquis poem “Takes Talent” comes up, and I end up reciting it to the delight of my students, who aren’t from the era of memorizing your favorite poems, or prose (they’re not even from the days of memorizing the preamble to the Declaration of Independence or Gettysburg address).  Sometimes I tell them how I first read this poem when I was in 8th grade, and have been quoting it ever since, sometimes I tell them I recited on a bad date and the guy conceded that he was of the first kind described in the poem. Sometimes I tell them it was written on the wall of bedroom (when I was single), and sometimes, I just tell them about Archie the cockroach who Marquis wrote under the guise of, skipping my personal connection. The poem is a follows, for those of you (most of you, I’m assuming) who are not familiar with it.

 Takes Talent
by Don Marquis

there are two
kinds of human
beings in the world
so my observation
has told me
namely and to wit
as follows
firstly
those who
even though they
were to reveal
the secret of the universe
to you would fail
to impress you
with any sense
of the importance
of the news
and secondly
those who could
communicate to you
that they had
just purchased
ten cents worth
of paper napkins
and make you
thrill and vibrate
with the intelligence

Every time without fail, I always end up thinking about two friends of mine, sisters, who, while I wouldn’t totally confine them to the paper napkin variety, as they do possess a mass quantity of intelligence to balance them out, however on day to day interactions, there is always something of dramatic interest to relate. There’s no such thing as an average day, or just a conversation, when walking away from any interaction there’s always something to say and comment on. And sometimes I walk away questioning myself, and my interpretations in life, who is right? Am I an unobservant, middle-road, never too extreme kind of person? I don’t think so, with most things, but relative to them, I’m a stick in the mud.

One time, after an interaction with the princpal she turns to me,“Hello, she was furious with us, did you see her eyebrows?” Eyes wide, her eyebrows perked up, and mouth open in intense question. Ummm…well, I think, she wasn’t happy with us, but she didn’t seem too upset, yes, she sugarcoated some words, but the situation is workable, as for her eyesbrows, I dunno, she pencils them in, they’re always extreme.

Telling over one story from our road-trip, “Hello, it was miserable, we’re sitting there, on the side of the road, cars just flying by, too fast for us to wave forlornly at them, and them, and then it hit us, like DING, call AAA. It must have been at least an hour, maybe longer, when AAA showed up, but then in like seconds we were up an’ running. But seriously, until they came – despair!”

Yeeeeaaah, I was there. We were singing every children’s song we knew, and having  a blast, eating all the mike and ikes, and then AAA showed up, and we were on the way. Ye, we might’ve flipped for a moment when the car broke down, and we weren’t sure what to do,  but it was a minute, really. Calling AAA is common sense, not genius, why are you exclaiming, “ooh, that’s so smart” when she tells you we called them?

And then there was the time one of them got me a job giving private swimming lessons. I’m very capable of doing it, and I did a good job, but I wasn’t looking for the job, she just happen to meet someone by a pool we were swimming by who commented she was looking for someone to teach her 4 year old swimming basics. I swam by, doing my umpteenth lap, and heard my name being called, and then as if I wasn’t there, she went on singing my praises – I was a lifeguard for years, taught tons of kids, my whole family is major swimmers, and on and on. All of it was true, but I would have never phrased it that way.  She also kept using words like, amazing, and the best, and bashert that we had met up today, which I wasn’t comfortable with. Yes, I’m good, I’m skilled, but really, the best, I don’t think so. Amazing? What does that word mean anyway in this context.  But the woman was sold, and I had a side summer job. I’m not complaining, but but—

The other night I was working with one of them on a project – changing the lyrics of a musical to fit a play we are working on. I think we did a good job in keeping the core of what made the song great in the first place, not perfect, there  are a few rough spots, and I don’t like all the transitions, but overall, really good, and I’m not embarrassed take credit for it. She though, was ecstatic, “It’s beautiful,” she tells me, “You’re so good at this,” “That line is brilliant, I don’t know how we did it”, and“Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about this!” I really think we may win a Tony now.

I feel like they’re living on a different plane of existence, even if we are experiencing the same thing, the way we interpret them and relate them, the dichotomy, is the clichéd night and day. To them a day is never a day, there’s always something fabulous, stupendous, horrendous or dreadful. You will talk to them, and you won’t think they’re drama queens, they’re not, they just know how to talk. And you will listen, and wish you had been there with them, or done when they did when x,y and z happened.

Am I missing something?

I ask my student’s if they could choose only one of the personalities presented in the poem, no in between balance, which would they choose? Most couldn’t decide if they wanted the intelligence, but no one caring to hear a word they said, or to talk total fluff and have everyone’s neck craned forward to hear your next utterance? I try pressing them for a definitive answer, but then they ask me for my choice, and I can’t decide either.

Good thing mutually exclusive things don’t come along that often, and that there is balance to most things in life…but still…if I had to choose… Is it really about how you talk, or how you experience life, which affects which?… If I had to choose…

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6 Comments

Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Teaching

 

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6 responses to “Profiles in Personality

  1. unravelmythoughts

    November 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Luckily for me, I have intelligence, but I am blessed with the avid description side of things as well heh heh! nice post but some words were totally cut off…you may want to edit it a bit 🙂

     
  2. jen

    November 30, 2011 at 3:34 am

    i thought the poem was saying that the second type of person is just great to be around. Not necessarily overly dramatic about life, but just always happy and bright. Like, they CAN have important and intelligent things to say, but even when just shmoozing, life is interesting…am i missing something?

     
  3. JerusalemStoned

    November 30, 2011 at 6:45 am

    There are people who stick to the middle of the emotional spectrum, and those who frequent the highs and lows. So while you might not burst with excitement over a nakpin sale, you also won’t wail with defeat when you miss the napkin sale. Everything has a flip side!

    Re: the poem, I think it’s just saying that even if the second person was just talking about napkins, you would be enthralled–not neccessarily that all they talk about is fluff and napkins. But that’s the beauty of a poem–you can interpret it how you’d like. 🙂

     
  4. TooYoungToTeach

    November 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

    The way I usually sum up the poem is “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”

    and as for the second person, the word choice of Don Marquis, thrill and vibrate with INTELLIGENCE, intelligence that you didn’t percieve from the first person because of their presentation. And paper napkins, Marquis chose an obvious frivolty to make his point — sorry, that’s not intelligence, you just fell for the pitch. I think it’s more than just being entertained, it’s being sold on.

    But the question still remains, if you could choose just one, be only one, and none of the other, no in between – which personality would you choose to be

     
    • jen

      November 30, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      like u said, it’s a rather hard choice.
      but i think i’d choose the second if i had to. life would be too lonely otherwise…

       
  5. jessicamarie19

    December 2, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    That is a really great poem – thank you for sharing!

     

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