Let me tell you… It’s a child
Some journeys make us realize our intelligence and some journeys make us realize our ignorance. After experiencing both the journeys I can say with reasonable confidence, at least as far as I am concerned, the journeys of discovering our ignorance are far more amazing. One such journey happened with me when my ignorance for natural sciences was exposed to the core and in the process made me realize that,
“Young children are the best scientists in the world.”
If my daughter hears the above words the first thing, I am sure, she will say, “Papa, please gyan dena band karo.” Let me assure you that she is not at all trying to disagree with me. Rather she is saying, in her own way, the dialogue that Ranveer Singh said in Simmba movie, “Tell me something I don’t know.” However, I rarely get such a reaction from adults. Actually, in using the word “rarely” in my previous statement, I was trying to be charitable to adults. In reality I typically hear them expressing, sometimes verbally & sometimes through their countenance (practiced to display intelligence in corporate settings), one of the following reactions:
1. Reaction1: “You are just trying to be nice to children…”
A number of people who think so, not only just think so, but also say (in their mind) something like this,
“I’m sure you are very nice, but you’d be even nicer if you went away.”
- Alexandre Dumas
Unfortunately, since the laws of niceties demand them to be nice to me, these people don’t spell out the cactus germinating in their grey matter as it is, but give it a makeover and then spell it out as a fragrant rose, “That’s such a nice thought”… then they will take a very meaningful pause, designed to create an air of anticipation, aka Amitabh Bachchan style followed by, I guess, what they think is an iconic dialogue, “Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.” Now, it’s my turn to take a pause, aka Rajpal Yadav style, trying to figure out what just hit me… and once I recover, I typically end up saying, following the same laws of niceties, something like this, “That’s nice to know that you can say the word Buffalo eight times without taking a breath, and though I praised Shankar Mahadevan for his song “Breathless”, I am really sorry but I am struggling to praise you for this amazing achievement.” Now that the discussion has been successfully given a new direction, these people go on to explain to me as to why the word ‘Buffalo’ said eight times in succession creates a perfectly valid English statement, leaving me quite confused and curious… confused because I passed my 10th board exams in English with just enough marks to call myself a first division holder and curious because I have fortunately/unfortunately spent now too much time in company of children. This confusion and curiosity of mine leads to me being given a long discourse on English such that when we part ways, I am still wondering about humble buffalo’s amazing accomplishment.
“The buffalo isn’t as dangerous as everyone makes him out to be. Statistics prove that in the United States more Americans are killed in automobile accidents than are killed by buffalo.”
- Art Buchwald
Most of the times, it’s only in hindsight I realize, as to how a buffalo’s forcible birth was an outcome of the fact that I was apparently trying to be nice to children.
How I wish life was so simple!
If nothing else at least I would be having a buffalo farm by now and would be hopefully running a prosperous dairy business.
2. Reaction2: “Ah ha… So, this is an advertisement for the science course that you run…”
Yes, I do have a Science course and if you think this is my advertisement for it then let me also tell you that my course hardly sells. However, I would guess that this information is immaterial. Anyway the point I am trying to make is that I can completely understand this reaction, for we live in a society where if you close your eye and throw a stone, it’s a 99.9% chance that it will fall on some billboard/brochure/advertisement/etc. promoting something. Actually, even if you open your eyes and throw the same stone, it’s still a 99.9% probability that, even if you desire, you can’t miss some promotion. Now it’s not a problem that products are getting promoted, the problem is that every damn thing one can think of is getting promoted and it’s not just getting promoted, it’s getting over the top promoted. I mean who would have thought few decades back that we will in times when a superstar will come on TV wearing a “baniyan” promoting it.
“Advertising is the price you pay for unremarkable thinking.”
- Jeff Bezos
The problem has reached such a legendary proportion that a lot of people today see themselves also as some product/brand and cannot have conversation without promoting themselves. We are literally evolving to live in a world where humans will exist less and less, and we will deal with products busy promoting themselves more and more. To add to our efforts, we have also created social media, which has given us the required Brahmashtra we were missing all along.
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
- Andy Warhol
I hope you have appreciated that this article is one of my attempts trying to get my 15 minutes of fame. In case you are of the curious variety then you may want to explore my other 15-minutes-fame attempts here…
- Twitter: @Nobel_Is_Noble
- Instagram: @DreamNobel
- Medium: @DreamNobel
Coming back to point… Given the excessively advertised world we all inhabit, taking everything coming our way with a pinch of salt (or maybe a truckload of salt) is the most normal response of most of us. Sometimes I wonder that maybe it’s not stress, but this continuous consumption of salt which is responsible for the increasing incidence of blood pressure in our society.
“There must be something strangely sacred in salt. It is in our tears and in the sea.”
- Kahlil Gibran
Anyway, the point I want to make is that I completely empathize with parents who see me as a person advertising his product or a person branding himself. How I wish, these parents also get to realize that I have lived my entire schooling life drawing a scenery that has 1 house, 2 coconut trees, a Sun and a river, whenever any teacher asked me to draw. With such an amazing creativity that I possess, when people see me as a marketer/advertiser, I feel I have been respected more than what I deserve and really feel very humble. This feeling of mine unfortunately never lets me identify with the following quote,
“You should never be surprised when someone treats you with respect, you should expect it.”
- Sarah Dessen
To this category of parents my genuine thanks for honoring me, even it is done without realization.
3. Reaction3: “Yeah we understand that children ‘have the potential’ to become the best scientists..”
Basically, this set of parents disagree with my original statement, “children are the best scientists in the world”, but because every parent has great expectations from their child, their mind subconsciously gives the statement a spin by adding the words ‘have the potential’, so that they are comfortable agreeing with it.
I once came across the following quote,
“It’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Every time when I come across parents like this my mind rephrases this thought of Aristotle as follows,
“It’s the mark of an amazing parent to be able to entertain a thought (w.r.t their child) by just twisting it somewhat.”
Lest I am misunderstood let me clarify that I am not calling these parents “amazing” in a sarcastic way. I am actually respecting them for the positivity with which they approach life. However, despite the respect, I still have a problem with them. I don’t understand why are they trying so hard to sculpt a “master-piece” when they already possess a “God’s-Own-Piece”. Maybe they believe in the following quote,
“Folks, I don’t trust children. They’re here to replace us.”
- Stephen Colbert
4. Reaction4: “That’s stupid/illogical/irrational/etc…”
Now this is the response I most commonly come across i.e., parents disagreeing with me.
By the way, people disagree with me much more than probably even Ram would have disagreed with the acts of Ravan OR Bahubali would have disagreed with the acts of Bhalaldev. I am so used to disagreement that the moment I see disagreement I am at peace… I literally get into my comfort zone.
“My whole thing is to agree to disagree and to have respect because nothing can really be changed and you wouldn’t want to ruin their happiness — even if that happiness is ignorance.”
- Katy Perry
However, all said and done, at least w.r.t this point, I always genuinely empathize with the parents who disagree with me for they have a very valid doubt,
“How can someone be best scientist when they have never learnt Science or have learnt very small amount of Science?”
Typically, the above 4 categories are where majority of the parents I meet fall in. Then there are those rare parents who agree with me genuinely.
5. Reaction5: “Yes, we understand what you are saying. It makes sense to us.”
However, I meet resistance so often to my thoughts that unfortunately when some parent actually agrees with me on something or for that matter anything, I am often lost for words… and in such situations I always remind myself of the following quote while simultaneously trying to stretch my lips to create a smile.
“Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.”
- Alain de Botton
So, here I am trying to explain as to why I believe in what I believe in i.e., why are children the best scientists in the world. Let me also assure you that this is not some secondary knowledge… this is what I have learnt/experienced first-hand while engaging with children on sciences over the last few years. Having said so, let me also stress that just because I have spent few years getting to this learning, it does not mean that it’s the right learning… maybe it’s just another mistake of my life, and if it is I am really not worried because,
“Mistakes are a part of dues one pays for a full life.”
- Sophia Loren
Ok. So, let’s get cracking. Here are my five reasons for believing that children are the best scientists in the world:
1. Reason1: For a child curiosity creates “wonder”… for an adult it at best creates “questions”…
If a voice is making its presence felt in your head by saying “I know. I know”, then ask the voice to calm down by telling it,
“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
- Albert Einstein
Now that the voice of your intelligence is calmed let me share with you the three major differences between “wonder” and “questions”:
1. The word “wonder” consists of 6 letters, “questions” consists of 9 letters… 69… without wonder, questions lose all fun and ability to create (pun unintended)
2. Questions have two (as)’s’(es)… wonder misses that…
3. Wonder is closer to thunder, question to congestion… in dictionary…
At this point if you are scratching your head, then I think there are three possibilities — dandruff, lice and dermatillomania. There may be some more possibilities but I choose to ignore them. See, I always tell children in my Art of Rational Thinking (ART) course that you don’t have to solve all the problems in the world. Just choose wisely what you want to solve and give your best. Now if I say this, I have to display this also. So, if you are scratching your head then it’s a problem I wisely choose to not solve.
Sorry, if I have given you a feeling of arrogance. Let me assure you that that’s not what I am trying to do. The reason it’s a problem I am not trying to solve is because it’s a problem only rare adults can solve and unfortunately, I am not one of them. See, it’s this way… we adults are so so so far away from feeling of wonder that it’s not even possible to describe it, let alone experience it. So, if you are an adult who feels that he/she knows the difference between ‘wonder’ and ‘question’ then I would suggest that you go back to the quote of Einstein that I shared earlier and re-read it slowly, word by word and with some more respect.
The truth is that its only children (and in those rarest of rare adults who have kept the child in them alive) in whom curiosity exists for its own reason and that’s why it’s only children in whom it comes with ‘wonder’ and because it comes with wonder, its only children where meaningful learning exists.
“I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about the problem of space and time. These are things which he has thought of as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up.”
- Albert Einstein
I cannot say it better than what Einstein said and hopefully you will listen to him more seriously than you will listen to me.
2. Reason2: Science is not a book of facts as adults have come to believe… it is a book of amazing fairy tales… and its only children who genuinely believe in fairy tales.
Once an adult, for some unknown reason, was very keen on understanding the Universal Law of Gravitation. She met a number of scientists but again for unknown reasons she was not completely satisfied with the responses she got. So, she finally decided to seek help of God. She prayed hard… she prayed long… she prayed with all her intent… she did all that was required and as luck would have it, God finally appeared in front of her. Thrilled she asked her question and God started, “Once upon a time…”. Legends say that that’s how the first fairy tale was written and that’s how the first scientist was born.
Science is an output of the most imaginative brains of our specie… brains so imaginative that more often than not they are never understood fully by majority of our specie. Anyway, the simple point is that its only children (and rarest of rare adults) who take fairy tales seriously… its only children (and rarest of rare adults) in whom creativity exists without boundaries and that’s why it’s only children (and rarest of rare adults) who can appreciate sciences like majority of we adults can never do so.
“I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.”
- Madame Curie
3. Reason3: To unveil the mysteries of nature we need to “experience” the raindrops… not just “feel” the raindrops…and who can do it better than children.
If there is a voice in your head saying, “Common, give me a break.”, then let me remind you that majority of us have already been given a break, from Science, by life. Is it a surprise that majority of us work in field and job profiles which are as close to Science as a typical mother-in-law is close to a typical daughter-in-law.
At this point let me clarify that I am in no way trying to say you don’t know Sciences. You probably know a lot of Science… you maybe one of those who have cleared some of the fancy science based entrance exams… you maybe already knowing the difference between mass and weight, speed and velocity, etc… you may have even read some of the popular books in Science genre like, “A brief history of time” by Stephen Hawking or “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan or some such book, whose cover image people post on their social media handles to make a point about their scientific temperament…yes you may have done some or all of these things and probably more. So, I am not at all contesting the fact that you know Science. What I am asking is, have you ever felt Science? It’s not at all about whether you know it or not, it’s all about whether you get it or not.
In my more than four decades of existence on this planet I have not come across a single adult, including myself, who “feels” Science, though I know a lot of adults who know a lot of Science. That’s probably why I have never come across any science great every saying that I discovered because I was an adult, but each and every one of them have said that they discovered because they were like a child.
“There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.”
- Robert Oppenheimer
4. Reason4: Our skills of curiosity, creativity and empathy are meaningful only if they are housed in a soul that has an implicit faith in the infinite generosity of nature to unveil itself… “for I know I am going to find it when it needs to be found out”.
If I ask adults, how do we save nature from the harmful effects of human activities, I am sure to get a large number of answers ranging from simple day to day steps that can be followed to large scale interventions. I am sure each of these answers are good approaches and we will have to do some or all someday with some seriousness. But I wonder how many adults will in the first place see the absurdity of my question itself. See, the point to appreciate is that nature was there before us and will be there after us also. Survival of nature is never the question, even if we adults want to see it that way. The real question is whether we will be around of not. So, it will do some good to our specie if we get some humility and appreciate that the question is not to save nature but to save ourselves. And only after we get this correct, we have some semblance of hope.
Nature is infinite and we are just one of her creations, though we may want to believe as if we are the only one of her creations. It is in this feeling or arrogance lies the absurdity of the question… the creation asking how to save the creator. It is due to this mindset of adults of human specie that we are not able to enjoy the infinite generosity of mother nature with humility, rather we are fighting for our survival. Children don’t suffer from this megalomania. They are always looking at trees and stars and butterflies and rivers and mountains and everything out there with eyes of someone who feels “small” and not, like adults, who look at all these with the eye of someone who feels “big”. It’s the inherent arrogance of adults that prevents them reaching the heart of mother nature and discover her mysteries. Children are born with an amazing level of faith in figuring out.
“I am always looking, like a child, for wonders I know I am going to find. Maybe not every time, but every once in a while.”
- Richard Feynman
5. Reason5: When mother nature eventually gives its generosity, how do we feel? Arrogant/confident or more ignorant?
I am yet to meet a child who does not say “My daddy (or mamma) strongest/smartest/etc.” and he/she means it. However, I am yet to come across an adult who says, “My baby strongest/smartest/etc.” and they actually mean it. Adults only say this either to motivate a child or be nice. But I have met many adults who have these statements up their sleeves:
- I am a self-made man (or woman)…
- I single-handedly brought this change…
- I motivated a group of people to achieve this…
- I improved the lives of all these people…
- If not for me this organization would have collapsed…
For majority of adults serendipity is a word that exists only in dictionary. We wear our successes on our sleeves and forget that while washing its sleeves (and collars) that gets scrubbed maximum. That’s why there is a saying that everything that goes up eventually comes down. Unfortunately, people think it refers to things thrown in a gravitational field. Children don’t suffer from this disease where one is forced to predominantly use the pronoun “I” or what is I-mania. They are all the time feeling ignorant and its their genuine feeling of ignorance that makes their intelligence sublime. Such an intelligence is called wisdom and its best depicted in story of Socrates. When Oracle of Delphi pronounced that Socrates as the wisest person, he apparently said, “I know that I know nothing.”
“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”
- Issac Newton
To sum up, the reason children are the best scientists in the world is because the formula that the creator has used in creating children is as follows:
Child = (Curiosity + Creativity + Empathy) + Faith + Wisdom of Ignorance
If we can appreciate this formula seriously, I can bet we will never after that try to teach Science (or for that matter anything) to a child in the way we do… rather we will use their existence to improve upon our own meagre scientific knowledge and hopefully open the doors of wisdom.
“Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.”
- Henry Ward Beecher
My last few years with children have taught me as to how dumb I was and how dumb I am, but I have a hope because there are wise souls around. That’s why as long as God will permit, I have decided to surround myself with children. For adults… welcome to the party, but please take the last benches. Finally if everything that I said still does not make sense, then remind yourself of the following quote,
“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
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