The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
A few years ago, Kevin M. Schultz, a historian and teacher, published a revealing book about two of America’s most noteworthy intellectuals, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Norman Mailer. It exposes a facet of them many of us might not be aware of: that they were close friends who thrived on debating and learning from each other. Beyond being entertaining and informative, the book has tremendous value for its premise alone.
This book is about a relationship that embodies Fitzgerald’s quote above. Buckley and Mailer were as different in their thinking as two American intellectuals could be. They debated, they disagreed, they argued. Yet they admired and learned from each other. And they were the best of friends. Because they each knew the other saw something they didn’t. They each knew there was value in trying to understand the world beyond their own bubble.
Because they were able to agree and disagree, because they made a choice to hold their own ideas yet learn from each other, their lives were made better. And so was our nation. If these larger than life thinkers, who disagreed about so much, were able to learn from each other, is there any reason the rest of us can’t do the same?