Monday 30 August 1999

Pic of the day: I'm not sure if this is a global phenomenon, but I've noticed that people wear their caps the wrong way when they want to appear stupid. I guess it is more practical than not tying your shoelaces. Very few people stumble in their caps. Of course, if you really were dumb, you wouldn't have thought of that.

I admire common folk for their stupidity.

No pussyfooting around the bowl here, the average human is far less intelligent than I. Sure, the gap is narrowing: The young ones today are smarter than those who have gone before; and my own wits are sliding, as you may have noticed. But for most of my life, the average human had an IQ halfway between me and the severely retarded. This may not be obvious; you will soon see why.

For these long years, I have observed common people. I went to school with them, I've worked with them, I've met them as clients and friends and passing strangers. And for a long time I did not have it in my heart to admire them, though it should have been obvious to me. Rather I was tempted to judge them. I, to whom so many things were given with barely the asking. Them, who had struggled so hard for so long to get where they are.

I am lazy and almost devoid of ambition. Sure, I can pick up knowledge and combine it with ease. I have the power to create, whether it be a piece of software or a fictional story or even poetry. But I tend to do so only when it amuses me, or when I feel an urge to. If something takes serious work, or even (gasp) patience, I'm so out of there. I never had to work hard to get by, after all. Why start now?

Chances are, dear reader, that you are pretty bright too. I've noticed that my readers tend to be. Have you pondered the connection between intellect and morality? Surely you have noticed that we have the same instincts and urges as other humans. Or apes, for that matter. We crave tasty food, sex (when we are grown up), pretty things, and not least acceptance from those around us. Stuff like that. And so the thought comes, which we call temptation: To take a shortcut to the things we want. To cheat. To do something that we would not want others to do unto us.

But we can see more than these opportunities. We can see the laws of cause and effect, of action and reaction. We can see the hearts we might break, the sadness and fear and anger we would inflict on others, and even the way our wrong choices poison our own pride, diverts us into lies and an endless play of subterfuge. Being able to think ahead, we see the future price to pay for taking a "shortcut" today. And so we try to protect not only the body but the soul. (Not always successfully, I may add. Compromises, compromises.)

Imagine then a person bereft of this foresight. Unable to see ahead what grief will become of his breaking what seems to him a random rule. Only vaguely does he sense some unease about this action - but it is enough. Steeling himself against temptation, even without knowing what he gains, though he knows what he loses. And still chooses to do the right thing. For no other reason than that it is the right thing. How can I not admire that?

In my high school days, I saw people struggling with their homework, reading through their lessons again and again, wrestling with their own wandering attention all the while. Where I had already snapped up the essential facts in class, and merrily went on to play or read a good book. Somehow some of these people have dragged themselves through years of higher education. Then at work they turned on their chores with the same steely determination. Because it had to be done. Now they are raising kids and building their houses larger, working all day and then going home to work some more. And I'm still off to play or read a good book.

I wouldn't switch places with them, I dearly love the life that is mine. But now I see their true greatness, and admire them. Every honest and hardworking average Joe and Jane: I take my high hat off, and salute you.

PoorBabyMe: Having a slight headache and a slightly stiff neck and a slight fever. Bwaah.

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