Garbage Collection, Success, and Superiority; One Of These Things Is Exactly Like Another

I suppose the first thing I’m going to have to do today is wish whomever is interested a late Happy Independence Day. Now that that’s out of the way, I suppose I should write a proper article. Though I want to pose a question first: is it better to know a lot but do little, or is it better to know little but do a lot? Actually guys you know what? I’ve been trying for the longest time to write something about superiority and no matter HOW I phrase it, the article ends up sounding poorly written, illogical, and moronic. Sadly, it also sounds incredibly condescending because it’s something written about superiority. You can’t write something about superiority without exuding a strange sense of feeling superior. It’s pretty much how it goes, just like you can’t talk about condescension without ending up sounding condescending. It’s the way things work; if you’re going to point out that someone is looking down on someone with an improper sense of superiority, you’re going to end up sounding like you’re looking down on someone with an improper sense of superiority, annoying and ironic as it may sound.

Though that’s the point now isn’t it? Superiority is just one of those things that no one can escape, because no matter how terrible you might think your life is, there will always be someone out there who’s got it worse, and when you’re presented with a terrible situation, you think about that someone and you say “Oh, so my life isn’t that bad.” That feeling you get realizing that at least you’re not the other guy is superiority. In fact it’s not JUST superiority, it’s schadenfreude (a German word that means to take pleasure in the misfortune of others [insert Avenue Q reference here]), and unless you’re somehow immune to human emotions, or you’ve been raised in a hole in the ground where everyone loves everyone and superiority has somehow been phased out, then you’re going to feel superior at some point in your life. Sure, it might be about the fact that you saved 15% or more on your car insurance, or maybe because you found a nickel that someone else dropped, but the feeling of superiority is (in fact) ingrained in our minds because from the day we enter school (assuming we’re lucky enough to even do that) we’ve been trained to take note of those who are less intelligent (or simply less interested) and to strive to not be them. I remember watching a TED (specifically this one on being wrong) talk by Kathryn Schulz who shows an image of a spelling test with enough mistakes to make a school girl blush. She states that we’ve been taught to NOT be like this person because they don’t do their homework, they don’t get far in school and therefore they aren’t as successful. The correlation here being that we (as the students) still felt superior to that student because we knew that no matter how badly we were doing, at least we weren’t that guy (or girl) and that’s all under the assumption that we WEREN’T that guy. If we were that guy, then you had the honour of being invited to countless parent teacher interviews, your classmates made fun of you (the annoying ones who did really well in second and third grade), and you were looked down upon all around.

This sense of superiority got stuck in our brains ever since then and I think at some point in our lives, we decided to combine success and superiority to provide an excuse for ourselves: if we are successful at something, we are therefore allowed to brag about said thing, and thanks to that we can feel superior. Now, yes, I suppose if you are successful at something, you do have some right to brag about it and say that you’re good, but this notion that one is allowed to feel superior just because they’re good at something is both illogical and moronic. Mainly because success itself is such a vast and fluid topic; the concept of success changes from person to person (ranging from the mundane, like waking up in the morning, to the extreme, like waking up and leaving the house with pants on) that just because one person feels they are, in fact, successful they can’t really brag about it unless it’s to a person in a similar field. In such a scenario, the other person will either (A) not care or (B) explode into such a frenzy of anger, fear, and loathing that you’ll probably regret even telling them (to the wise few who noticed, yes. That was sarcasm).

Which brings me to my final question of the day: is it better to be successful or to fulfill one’s desires and therefore achieve a state of self actualization (yes, I did read Prince of Tennis and yes, I loved it) where one is successful because they have done what they wanted to and have accomplished their goals. Frankly? I think we all know that if it was a choice between conforming to social success, or achieving our own goals (whatever they may be, even if they include being socially successful [paradox, ignore that extreme argument for now]) we would choose achieving our own goals and being successful in our own minds. Though, this oddly ties back to my first question: is it better to know a lot but do little, or is it better to know little but do a lot? The answer that I’ve somehow found in a weird Paul Coelho kind of way is this: achieving one’s own goals will always be more fulfilling than conforming to social expectations and being successful in the social sense. Therefore, while it might be disappointing to see a genius physicist as a garbage collector (I’ve been reading old Dilbert comics by the way), remember that while it might be odd to us, to this individual, they are fulfilling their own goals and desires and while we might expect them to want and do more, they are doing what they want and making their own choices. Which is more than anyone can ask for to begin with, success, superiority, or not.

As always, this has been your Admin; comment and criticize and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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