If the human mind was a… bikini area, Wit would be like a genital wart.
Wisdom would be the balls.
Wisdom, like balls, is needful. Wisdom, like balls, is a part of who you are, and constitutes some of your legacy in this world. If the wisdom you gather and impart is sharp enough, and apt enough, then your mind might in some small way live on after you are gone. Just like if you empty your balls, with a little luck, you shall not perish from this earth.
Wit dazzles when it first arrives. With concision and exactitude, Wit can extract the essential from experience. At first blush. At first blush, this is what Wit seems to do. Confronted by the confounding miasma of conflicting information that comprises human experience, it is tempting to suppose that Wit can provide tidy resolutions to the insoluble. But that’s not true. Is it? Of course not.
Smirking has it uses. But it does not sustain us. It cannot. Wit has as its main virtue the capacity to surprise. It’s a non-threatening form of ambush. Confronted by wit, there is a little frisson of excitement at having encountered a neat idea deftly expressed. What Wit does to your brain is like a mild form of shaken baby syndrome. Nothing more.
Has anybody read any Oscar Wilde lately? Or Shaw? Wilde and Shaw are celebrated as two of the great Wits of English letters. And another quality they share? They are totally insufferable. I defy you to read more than I couple pages of their stuff without going: “All RIGHT. I GET it. Upper crust hypocrisy – you’re against it. Bold fucking stand.”
And maybe you’re like “What about Twain?” Fuck you. Shut up. Different category. And maybe you’re like “Well isn’t TWAIN lauded for his Wit? HMMM?” Yeah. No doubt. But two things: 1) don’t say “lauded”, cause you sound like a douche, and 2) what separates Twain from dingleberries like Shaw and Wilde is that he was fucking FUNNY. And maybe you’re like “Well aren’t ‘witty’ and ‘funny’ the same thing?”
OK, yeah. Sure. “Funny” and “witty” are the same thing in the same way that a Wet Willy is the same thing as a fucking water cannon. They both involve moisture. But one of them will knock you flat. And it will knock you flat every fucking time. Along about the third or fourth Wet Willy, how novel is the experience? Yeah. I thought so. Sit down. And if you fucking compare Mark fucking Twain to George Dickface Shaw one more time, I will instruct you on the difference with brass knuckles.
If I to compose the wittiest comment ever yet conceived in all of human history – if you all were to erupt in spontaneous and sustained applause to commemorate the uncommon achievement it was your privilege to witness; and you were to quote this comment widely to your friends, you would begin to notice something immediately – your pleasure in this comment diminishes with each telling. You rapidly stop telling of it. And if you happen to overhear somebody quoting this comment, we begin to hate them a little.
Wit expires. Wit goes rancid. Wit is freshness dated. That date is iron clad, and once it is past, the smell is overpowering.
Wisdom is the door of a cathedral – it was wrought with skill; it fits into and works within a much larger structure; it has purpose; it has beauty. It can have personal meaning, civic meaning, spiritual and historical and symbolic and a hundred other meanings – all at once.
If Wisdom is like a cathedral door, then Wit is a Jack-in-the-Box. And you know what makes a Jack-in-the-Box amusing? Being two or having head trauma. Wit is like those pop-open panels on that show Laugh-In – delightful at first, but after a while, you want to smash Goldie Hawn in her vapid fucking face.
You can contemplate Wisdom. Wit is a distraction. You are humbled by a Wisdom. Wisdom demands of you. Wisdom urges you to become more than you are.
What does Wit ask of you? Nothing. Wit’s most ardent wish is that you find it adorable, because Wit is a suck-up little shitbird that wants gold stickers. When life comes at you with knives drawn, Wisdom will dig in while Wit puts on a little show. Wit will do a soft shoe and die choking on its own blood.
When you are embattled, Wit will abandon you. When you are beleaguered, Wit will fail you. Wit will not only fail you, Wit’s fucking feelings will be hurt because you didn’t praise it for failing you.
Listen: I been going through some shit lately. But do you think Wit will help me? Fuck no. Wit’s been wicked busy composing its latest quip about Charlie fucking Sheen. Whereas Wisdom will look Charlie Sheen in the eye and tell him: “If you tweet about Japan, I will chop your fucking hands off.”
Wisdom is lacing up its boots and kicking ass while Wit is still applying mascara. Wisdom will take up its axes and halyards, its shields and its flails, and it will advance with you. Wisdom will face what comes, while Wit is back in the tent, regaling the lazy and afraid.