Monday, April 17, 2006

Much to Be Modest About

"Gilks sighed. 'You're a clever man, Cjelli, I grant you that,' he said, 'but you make the same mistake a lot of clever people do of thinking everyone else is stupid.'" - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams
First off, people who start articles with quotes should be beaten with the corpses of people who start articles with dictionary definitions. Present company included, but this is going to be a self-flagellating article, so it's okay. Plus, it was an excuse to dig up my copy of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which was tucked away under a pile of other books.

I consider myself pretty smart and fairly well-informed; I'm not embarassed saying this, because it's tempered by the knowledge that there are lots of folks who are smarter and better informed than me -- and that's not in the boss's insincere "I hire people who are smarter than me" sort of way.

Having said that, I always cringe a bit when I think back to the times when I took some bit of new-found knowledge and shared it in an overly-didactic way with someone who, in retrospect, had probably known it since forever and probably thought I was a condesecending and clueless pedant asshole.

I used to be a lot worse as a younger man. But I still have my moments.

For example, a few weeks ago, we had a meeting with someone demoing his product or service for possible licensing or purchase by us. He was hooking up his laptop and having some problems, so ever-helpful me says, "Hit Function-F8" (the external monitor toggle). This, to a guy who's probably given more presentations off his laptop than I've had hot meals.

Anyway, that's a mild example that I chalk up to trying to be helpful. I would go into more cringe-worthy performances, but I would have to fight through all the suppression.

These days, I find it's easier to act stupid, which is my version of the Socratic method, as asserted in another Douglas Adams' work (HHGTTG, which I don't own but is a quick search away):
"One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn't understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid."

2 comments:

BW said...

"First off, people who start articles with quotes should be beaten with the corpses of people who start articles with dictionary definitions. "

Haaaa! What about people who start their articles with smugly-obscure-yet-vaguely-relevant song lyrics?

They're the kewl ones, right?

On an unrelated and end-of-your-article note, I would imagine that there are those who believe that even when you are 'acting' stupid, that you are still the smartest person in the room...

But as long as we're being Socratic, was it not that great philosopher his own damn self who declared himself the smartest person in Greece because he understood how litte a man could knew?

Pass the hemlock, please ...

joelogon said...

Was it not Socrates who said, "I drank what?!"