Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Obvious

27 Adar I, 5771
March 3rd, 2011

It seems to me that in order to advance knowledge or create great art, one must be both persistent and really annoying.
That perseverance is necessary to genius has already been beautifully said (you know the quote). So let me explain why insufferable annoyance is required as well.
Imagine a child, about three or four years old. This child asks unbelievable amounts of questions about the world: why is the sky blue? why are tall people tall? why does the sun rise and set? why aren’t there dinosaurs anymore like they showed me in the museum? why do I have to share my toys? Next to this child is a fond if rather exasperated parent responding as best as she can. This scene a treasured experience of every parent I know.
Now imagine a 33 year old asking the same questions at a dinner party. Said grownup generates plenty of exasperation and exactly zero fondness. Ask people such perfectly obvious questions, and blank stares are the sparse reward.
It is of course, the quality of those adults to whom we ascribe genius that they have refused to let such questions go. It was their unseemly questioning of the obvious facts of life as the blue sky, etc. that birthed what we know about physics, genetics, astronomy, evolution, and morality, respectively. Charles Darwin was, I’m sure, beyond irritating until he published On The Origin of Species at age 33.
…lo habayshan lomed, ve’lo hakapdan melamed
…shy people cannot learn, brusque people cannot teach (Avot 2:5)
May we always have patience for obvious questions.

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