A man decides to fulfill his curiosity, leading him to discover his own purpose.
The Lost Intellectual
by Noah Youngson
Once there was a man who was ousted from his job, leaving him extremely frustrated and spiteful. Cursing the air around him on his way back to an empty home, with the mid-October sun falling softly upon his face, the man came across a musician just outside the park by which he was walking. The musician struck a few passionate chords on his guitar as the man came closer, who glanced towards the music and kept walking. The man’s conscience yanked and pulled at him, and so finally he turned around to approach the sound.
“If you don’t mind me asking, how does someone like you perceive the world?” he asked. The musician ceased his playing and looked up.
“I perceive the world through vibrations and waves, and frequencies and patterns. I love to hear different sounds, and often I pick up on sounds that others fail to hear. Over time, through effort and practice, I have attuned my ears to both the music of instruments and the music of the world."
“And how does that affect the world?” continued the man.
“It brought you to me, did it not?”
“Well, I suppose so.”
“That is how it affects the world: it connects souls by means of waves and vibrations. I noticed the troubled look on your face as you passed by, and yet instead of continuing on, swimming in your frustration, you made the decision to approach me, and you will likely be racking your brain for hours after this to find out why. But here we are.”
The man glanced at the musician, then quickly darted his eyes towards the passing cars and pedestrians.
“If I had some money I would toss it in, but…”
“That’s quite alright. Your ears were enough of an even exchange.”
The man looked at the musician once more and nodded. He said goodbye and continued the journey towards home.
Upon turning the corner onto the next block, the man encountered another gentleman, who was sitting cross-legged at a table outside of a coffee shop, sipping on a steaming cup of fresh coffee. The gentleman observed with a casual focus the cars and people passing by.
“Excuse me sir, what do you do?”
“I am a physicist,” answered the gentleman, and took another sip.
“So how do you perceive the world?” the man asked.
“Well, I see the way the natural forces of the universe interact with each other and with matter. More specifically, I study the foundation of these forces, such as their particle or wave composition. Through rigorous examination of the evolution of physics up to its current state, I have come to see the world in a very cosmic fashion.”
The man stared at the ground and stroked his chin. “And how does that affect the world?”
“Look around you.” He gestured his arm toward the cars and people. “An object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. Just a moment ago you were a part of that motion, then you encountered me, an outside force. You likely would not have approached me, or even noticed me, were I a part of that same motion.” The gentleman sipped again.
“I suppose that’s true,” the man said, pondering. “I would ask to stay and have a cup of coffee, but I must be on my way home now.”
“Not a worry. I shall continue to observe the motion once more. You have a good day sir,” said the gentleman. The man nodded and was on his way.
He was approaching the outskirts of the city now, and the sun was beginning to morph from yellowish white to completely yellow. Once the man reached the outer edge, he faintly heard a voice singing a tune with which he was not familiar. The source of the music appeared to be a shopkeeper atop a ladder, painting a fresh coat of red on his sign.
“Hello sir,” he said to the shopkeeper. “I was wondering if you could tell me how you perceive the world.”
“Why yes,” he replied. “Let me finish the rest of my sign and I’ll tell you.” The last few strokes were applied, the brush was placed in the paint can, and down came the shopkeeper from his ladder.
“I see the world for its measure and exchange of value. Opening up a shop has allowed me to understand what people desire, and the lengths they’re willing to go to fulfill that desire. On the contrary, it has allowed me to understand what people do not desire as well. Over time I have been able to see how nothing can turn into something of tremendous value, and vice versa.
I have come to the understanding that the customer does as he pleases, and it is my job to constantly grab their attention. I grab their attention, they buy a product, we each get value. Eventually their interest shifts, I now have the means to appeal to that interest, they buy another product, the company grows, and the cycle continues.”
The man glanced inside the shop at all the different items and goods for sale. “And how does that affect the world?”
“You initially approached me with a question,” continued the shopkeeper. “Which means you were searching for an answer. You received the inner value of asking the question, and I received the inner value of giving the answer. Now whether or not my answer will be of any value outside of this conversation is for you to decide. If it is of value, and I think it will be, you’ll likely be back with another question.”
The man nodded. “I almost certainly will be. I’ll let you get back to painting now.”
He continued on his journey home, the buildings of the city growing further and further behind him. After some time, after he had climbed the hills and descended the valleys that led to his street, he had finally made it.
Once inside, instead of relaxing and winding down, his mind grew restless and he began to pace his living room. “Now, how do I perceive the world?” he thought to himself. “Well, it seems I am interested in its varying perceptions and what those perceptions consist of. It seems I also enjoy knowing how a particular idea, craft, or way of thinking impacts the world. And I am pursuing both of these ends by simply asking questions.”
The man continued to pace back and forth. He hesitated for a moment, and then looked out through the window at the other houses on his street. Once more he thought: “And how does my perception affect the world?” At this he caressed his chin, examined the houses and cars that lined his street, and then turned back towards his living room. “I am pacing back and forth in my living room, pondering how my view of the world affects it. I am pondering how the differing ideas, crafts, and perceptions that exist in the world shape how it functions. Therefore, since these things are eternal and limitless, I am required to be a lover of wisdom in order to truly wonder about them, and only through rigorous questioning would I be able to come to accurate conclusions about their utility and value.”
The man finally felt he could relax, at least for a little while. The next day, he returned to the shopkeeper with another question, and the days after that, he continued to visit individuals all throughout the city to further embark on his journey.