E-pistle December 10

How Come They’re Smarter in Trenton?
 
When I am out of town and someone asks me where I’m from, I usually say, “Philadelphia” or maybe, “the Philadelphia area.” I’m going to start saying “I’m from just across the river from Trenton.”  That ought to impress people. Seriously. It turns out that if you are from Trenton you’re likely to be more than twice as smart as someone from Philadelphia. 2.35 times as smart, to be exact. According to a study done by Portfolio.com, the Brainpower Index for those of us from the greater Trenton area is 1.275.  For those of you who live in the Philadelphia area, it is 0.542. If you are interested in such things, here is the methodology for the Brainpower Index.
 
Of the 200 U.S. cities included in the survey, Trenton is the nineteenth smartest and Philadelphia is #52.  If we say we are from Philadelphia, it means they’re smarter than we are in Boston (8), New York (36), Baltimore (29) and Washington (3).  Not quite so smart in Harrisburg (92) or Pittsburgh 86).
 
Becky and I have lived in or near #20 (Santa Cruz, CA), #27 (Portland, OR), #75 (Richmond, VA), #86 (Pittsburgh), #148 (Green Bay) and almost equidistant from #188 (Fresno, Ca) and #200 (last place Merced, CA, where they grow lot of almonds).
 
We haven’t lived in the rarefied air of Boulder, Colorado, but otherwise have pretty much traveled the gamut from smart to, well, dumb. And one of the smartest (and wisest – but the Brainpower Index doesn’t measure wisdom) persons we have ever known grew up just outside of #190 and now lives not far from #200. So much for statistics.
 
When Mary traveled to the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and pronounced a benediction over Mary. Mary responded to Elizabeth’s blessing with a song of praise to God. Among the things she said of God was that “he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”
 
There’s nothing wrong with living in Boulder, Colorado, rather than Merced, California. To be sure, there are more PhDs in boulder than Merced. There are more almond growers in Merced. There’s nothing wrong with preferring Boulder to Merced, or even PhDs to almond growers. But there is something wrong about being proud in the thoughts of our hearts about such things as living in #19 instead of #52. Or #200.
 
As we drove from our home in the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite towards Merced and the flatlands of the San Joaquin Valley, we would pass through the foothills of the mountains just before we got to the almond orchards.  Depending on the time of year, we’d often see sheep dotting the hillsides. And sheep mean shepherds, the sort of people who live outside Fresno and Merced. Shepherds rarely have PhDs.
 
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear…”
 
I am from the Philadelphia area and two of our three kids were born in Fresno.