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Essay-a-week

This too shall pass

Your mother is a liar. A big, fat liar. Don’t worry though. All mothers lie. In fact, both your parents do. They told you that you were smart and you, wired up like a biological time bomb, believed it. Silly, silly human. Thoughts like that will only lead to your self-destruction.

Just because you can do a talk, read, and perform the usual parlor tricks, you’re not king of all things – despite how many times your parents babble on about your precociousness. “My little Jimmy here, say hi Jimmy. Yes. Well he’s just about the smartest boy you’ll know. Aren’t you Jimmy? Yes. Well, see he got straight A’s in Kindergarten except for that C in Art. But my Jimmy here wasn’t even trying. Isn’t that right Jimmy? Yes. Well, he’s even eating his own food now. Cuts his vegetables by himself and everything. Don’t pick your nose Jimmy. Yes. Well…” And so the lies run on. I know of no greater lie than that of a parent. Once a parent opens their mouth about their child’s intelligence, they might as well shovel feces right down your ear. At least that way, you’ll know that it’s all bullshit.

Listen up Mom/Dad/The Rest of The World. Gauss was pooping only on prime numbered days way before your little Jimmy even could gargle out his name.  Srinivasa Ramanujan used basic trigonometrics to contribute to various series formulae infinitely before your little Jimmy could even perform his multiplication tables. Einstein mastered Euclidean geometry years before your little Jimmy became fascinated with his little Jimmy. So no, your little Jimmy isn’t smart. But then again, no human really is. Those three apparently ideal examples of smart-old-dead-guys I just mentioned are not much smarter than little Jimmy anyways.  They are just accomplished enough to have made their mark on the world. I jerk you not, little Jimmies. Let me explain.

Each and every human being stems from the genetic pool of primates, “as you are a prime example” (as my brother would say). Us modern day chimps, like our ancestors thousands of years ago, are just that: modern day chimps. Like them, we still pray and fight and flirt with anything with that moves. We still laugh at loud farts and bad jokes and people in misfortune. We still steal and mourn and worry about who our children will marry. Nothing has changed there. Nothing ever will.

What is more is that, like our ancestors, we know infinitesimally little about the world. When one looks at today’s science and technology – the magnificence of a car engine, the theory of evolution, the structure of the atom, plastics, computers, bone marrow transfers – one can’t help feeling like a cavemen who first sees fire. Tell me how a cell phone works. Tell me how to start a kerosene lamp. Tell me how to carve a wheel out of stone. Exactly. Silence. We know so little about anything and we have forgotten what we once knew. We are just a bunch of squares who thought the world was flat only some 500 years ago. We’re nobodies.

I say all this because I often get overwhelmed by the notion that despite not knowing very many things, any idea, philosophy, or thought process one could possibly conjure up within their mind’s limits has already been thought of. You ask, “What if the world isn’t flat,” and you’re treading on Copernican shoes. In a non-illicit-drug-induced-fantasy, you ingeniously ask, “What if the world fades away as you close a door?” Descartes answers solipsism. 16th century. Kid stuff. What is even more frightening than that is that such knowledge is continuously built upon. A heliocentric solar system leads to the Coriolis effect, multiverse theories, and weather patterns. Solipsism morphs into other philosophical thoughts such as the philosophical zombie or logical minimalism.  And yet, here you were, just five seconds ago grasping at 16th century straws. Humanity can never be smart because despite knowing very little about the world, we already know too much.

With that in mind I have no choice but to realize the fact that all my following thoughts are not my own but rather a collection of ideas I have gathered from my experiences. I am a parrot, and simply said, “Polly wants a cracker.” This cracker is one of intelligence, something none of us truly can obtain for none of us truly know much about anything. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that a minimum exists for the product of the uncertainties that is equal to or greater than one half of the reduced Planck constant. For those people who don’t know what that means, it practically translates into the idea that we are just about uncertain about everything, even the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. In the end, no matter what we apparently know, what principles we derive, what theories we construct, we are drawn back into the beginning. We hit the evolutionary starting point of knowledge: the bedrock. We become Neanderthals clubbing our way with brains too big and hands too small. For lack of better words, “Yabba-dabba-do.”

For those brainers who quip and quack, “But there is more than one form of intelligence!” I have the following words. Unfortunately for the “brainers”, they do not realize that such intelligence(s) are very volatile and susceptible to change. Take street smarts for example. Street smarts applies only to the streets you live in. Bring a wise cracking, street slacking New York Bronx King to Basilia Street in Manila, Philippines and let’s see if that King from the Bronx turns into a Queen afraid of Filipino honks. What of that 4.0 GPA, brainiac? Your 4.0 GPA simply proves you’re a machine that has conformed well to the stressed induced all nighters and test-taking rituals. At this point, the intelligent question is to ask, “What is intelligence?” Well if you have to ask, you obviously aren’t smart enough to comprehend the answer.

The truth is we can never know what intelligence is. We measure it off some arbitrary scale, wherein 200 years from now, the knowledge, the very essence of intelligence, will be archaic. This is why human beings aren’t intelligent creatures. Human beings are no more intelligent than an earthworm scrubbing its way through the cemetery of the past. The only difference is we are just earthworms that glow, or so Winston Churchill said.

What then, if intelligence is not some factual factoid but instead the perennial pursuit of it? Smartness would then be derived from discovery as opposed to knowing. Some will argue in this vein. “I have my Ph. D in Mathematics or English or ‘Substitute any topic that is meant to be regarded with high esteem’. I must be smart. This printed paper says so.” Now, I do agree that the investigation into the workings of this world is impressive, whether it be through carving one’s way through the abstract Van Kampen’s Theorem or synthesizing alpha-methylene glutaric anhydride monomers for photochemical polymerization, and that such a life is an endeavor into the very depths of what it means to know, but the problem with that is that it is but a search, never a complete destination. It is not a concrete fact, but an evolution of hypotheses that gradually are accepted. It is a never-ending journey that leads to the arbitrary feature of intelligence dully noted. A 14th century astronomer may be considered a savant for attempting to learn the constellations during the Dark Ages, but by modern day standards, this is a task for five year olds. Now who is to say that the savant and the five year old aren’t one and the same?

In this way, the intellectual pursuits are an example of the paradoxical fashion of knowing less and less about more and more. As the discoveries are made, new questions arise. What uses can a fullerene have? Who was the “dark lady”? The world literally unravels in the never satiable quest for knowledge, but one always discovers a new path, perhaps less travelled, perhaps not. Knowledge is not static. The quest for knowledge only grows larger each time we make one stab at it. To claim to be intelligent would be a failure of realizing that when we take two steps ahead, we are already five steps behind. It is like we are attempting to empty an ocean with nothing but a pipette.

I suppose what is needed is a stipulated definition of intelligence. However, according to me, who should’ve prefaced that as a human I am an idiot, such a task is impossible. This is because whatever I attempt to warp into a stipulated definition will inherently fail because I am inherently bent for failure, bent to make dumb decisions. Call it original dumbness, original stupidity, or brain-farts-galore but whatever it is, it is about the only truth. Eve had it. She chose the pursuit of knowledge over paradise and look where it has gotten us. Here we are with no immortality, no eternal happiness; nothing save for the sweat of our brow and our dumb fingers toiling with work that when we die, will be as important as we were to the Universe. If the world would explode, and everyone would die, nothing would change. Our lives are a joke, and when taken seriously, they become a laughing riot.

That puts me in mind of a tale or an ancient lore as my father prefers to call it in a stammering of a thick Polish accent. It begins as such, although I’ll be sure to use near-to perfect English hear. Ha, see what I did their? They’re too. Again. Brilliance never looked so stupid. Anyways. Listen. Listen to my dumb tongue dribble.

One day, the most powerful King in all of the land requested that he obtain all the knowledge in all the world. He wanted to learn everything. Science. Philosophy. Mathematics. Religion. You name it, he wanted it. To do so, he commanded three of his most trusted knights to go far and wide to search for every known piece of information, collect it, and give it to him. The knights went out in every direction, enduring the rain, the snow, and the heat. Their journey was long and arduous. After three years, they returned with tomes upon tomes of knowledge. The King was giddy with ecstasy. Here, not only would a kingdom be his, but the world and its secrets. To him, knowledge was power and power was knowledge. However, it would take twenty lifetimes to read all these volumes. It was a feat no man could do. The King requested that they lessen the amount but keep the breadth of knowledge. So the knights went out again, searching for all the knowledge in the world in a manageable life time. They came back with books rather than tomes, however, the King was still disappointed. There was no possibility he could digest all of this within one lifetime, let alone two. He pleaded plaintively “Please knights. I need to know everything but live to be able to tell it.” Once again, the knights went unto the breach, and after three long and strenuous years of painstaking searching, the knights came back. They had no books, no tomes, not even a letter. They simply had their clothes on their back and a piece of yellow, tarnished paper. Greedily, the King snatched the parcel from one of the exhausted knight’s hand, and read the words that describe all that was ever known, all that ever can be known and all that will ever be known.

“This too shall pass.”

Our ‘intelligence’ is the futile attempt at comprehending an incomprehensible world. As a species, we are pooped from doing it for so long. In fact, 2.5 million years ago years is long to be thinking. It should be mentioned, however, we were never meant to think. It was a favourable mutation, and now as monsters, our brains hurt doing it all the time. Regardless of our current monstrous states, only on earth do we have this problem of thought and only on earth do we think others are smart. Coincidentally, only on earth can a species be so ever wrong and so ever dumb.

Thus, what I am smart enough to understand is that human beings are smart enough to be stupid, smart enough to not be smart enough. One is reminded that they cannot know what is enough until they’ve had more than enough. Look around, and notice that stupidity is abound. As Einstein said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Stupidity is all humanity really is. We can never know anything certainly, even if this sentence is shrouded in doubt. For those who rebuttal with, “Just because we do not know does not mean we are dumb”, I’ll remind you that you are sitting there with your dumb little fingers on a computer you don’t understand, on a chair you could never build, in a house you can barely call your own, in a world you that you are but an ant in, in a universe you are even less than that.

Don’t fret though. I’m dumb too – probably the dumber-er of the two of us. Together, we are both just dumb apes thumbing our way through the Universe. We either place our thumbs in our butt or put those opposable joints to some fruitless work. Most of us choose the former. That is why you can’t spell humanity with out the word stupid. Hu-stupid-ity. I’d be an idiot if that wasn’t right.

About kacperniburski

I am searching for something in between the letters. Follow my wordpress or my IG (@_kenkan)

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