I can’t remember where I heard this story or who told it to me. So perhaps it’s simply best to consider this in the same category as legend or lore. Perhaps you may add this tale to your (no doubt) growing collection of stories and legends from New St. Andrews College Mythology. Additionally, I should add, that if you remember this event or perhaps you are the victim of this story, I would beg your apologies for factual errors, rhetorical hyperbole, and all other manner of exaggeration and distortion of what really happened. I remember laughing very hard about this story–to the point of abdominal pain, and even when I don’t laugh about it anymore, I still smile quite fondly and remember that little soft spot in my belly.
At any rate, all first year New St. Andrews College students normally take Rhetoric as Freshmen. This course was taught by Mr. Chris Schlect back in the day when I was a student at NSA, and I believe Mr. Douglas Wilson taught the class for a year or two and now finally, it has become something of Mr. Nathan Wilson’s bailiwick. This course covers numerous areas of public speaking, creative writing, logic, classical rhetoric, and all manner of angles on coherent discourse and carefully tuned wordsmithing. Now that’s the idea at least.
During the course of this year of rhetorical study impromptu speeches and debates are occasionally held. Thus, a topic is assigned and without further ado, you or one of your hapless compatriots may find him or herself hauled to the lists.
The story, of which I made mention several paragraphs ago, took place on one of these occasions. I am told that on this occasion Mr. Douglas Wilson was mercilessly attending to the proper “breaking in” of the newbies, engaging in impromptu debates with them on a whole host of issues. I’m not sure if he was the teacher of the class or if he had been invited in to the class for the afternoon to cultivate a greater din of rhetorical bonhomie. In either case, the story goes that some young Andy found himself blinking bashfully in the limelight of some hallowed NSA classroom standing directly across from Mr. Wilson. The assigned debating topic was something to do with “working hard vs. laziness/relaxation”. I don’t know exactly because, as I mentioned previously, I wasn’t there. But as it seemed, the gods favored the lad granting him what seemed to be the easier case, a defense of the goodness of hard work and diligent labor.
The terms were set, the topic assigned and the poor little brute went about it, hacking and walloping with all of his rhetorical might, seeking to lay his axe of wit and wisdom to the tree of all things lackadaisical. Having championed his cause for the stated amount of time and beaming with satisfaction at the apparent results, the young Demosthenes rested his case and yielded the floor up for a cross examination, like an ox to the slaughter, like the little ants fleeing under my son’s stomping feet. I’m not sure how the cross examination began, and I really do not know how long it lasted. But I’m told that the critical climax of debate was reached when Mr. Wilson reached into his vast repository of Bible verses and flung Proverbs 24:33 at the poor, unsuspecting fool, leaving him wide eyed, stunned, and eventually speechless. Proverbs 24:33, for those of you who don’t remember, is that pointed, breathtaking champion of all verses anti-laborious. “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.”
The world froze. Comets missed their turns. Galaxies hiccupped. Several freshman girls fainted. It appeared that Mr. Wilson had proven beyond a shadow of doubt that while work might be fine and dandy, sleep and slumber were far more desirous, and as it turned out, far more Biblical. The young man stammered and stuttered, feverishly racking his memory for some come back, some logical fallacy, or just some Latin word that meant “nuh-uh” to make all the world right again. But it was not to be. The young man relented, recanted and sheepishly yielded the floor.
I do not think that it was too long after that our bold and fearless Andy read Proverbs 24:33. And growing in his great mastery of rhetorical insight, he dared to push the limits, expanding his horizons, boldly going where he at least, had never gone before, reading Proverbs 24:34: “So shall poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.”