The Polymath

The Polymath

Eighteen years ago, the polymath performed exceptionally on his college entrance exam. And a few years after that, he received his degree without much effort at attaining it.

The polymath considers himself brilliant. He knows much more than the average person about foreign affairs, history and politics. He even knows a few things about art and philosophy. He knows enough to convince the common man who knows nothing about art and philosophy that maybe the polymath understands a great deal. He knows enough about enough things to perform well on TV shows and board games where such knowledge might benefit him. But he is brilliant. He is a polymath. He is too brilliant for game shows and trivia board games.

One day I confessed to the polymath that I knew nothing about hockey.

“Hockey?” he scoffed. “What the fuck’s there to know about hockey?”

“More than I already know,” I said.

“The puck goes in the net for a score,” he said. “And high score wins. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. That’s faux-intellectualism.”

I knew more about football than hockey, so I asked, “What about football?”

“Same thing,” he said. “Run or throw the ball into the scoring zone. Or kick it though the posts. Then the high score wins.”

“You know a lot about football,” I said.

“I’ve seen it on the TV,” he said. “In passing.”

“So you’ve got it down.”

“I know enough,” he said.

“Do you know how many periods are played in a game of football?”

“No,” he said.

“Actually, they’re called quarters. And there are four, naturally.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Do you know how long each quarter is?”

“No,” he said.

“How many time-outs each team gets?”

“No.”

“How many players are allowed on the field? How many points for a touchdown? A safety? A field goal? Do you know what a safety is?”

“No,” he said.

“Intentional grounding. The difference between offsides and a neutral zone infraction. Illegal forward motion. The rules of overtime. Do you know anything about any of this?”

“No,” the polymath said.

“Strategies for clock management?”

“No.”

“But you know about the ball going into the scoring zone. Or being kicked through the goal posts. And that’s enough?”

“Yes,” he said. “It’s plenty.”

“Did I mention I don’t know much about hockey? Not much more than the puck going into the goal is a score?”

“Well, what else is there to know?”

“I’m not a polymath,” I said. “So I figured there was a lot more to know.”

“No,” the polymath said. “There’s only what’s enough to convince yourself you know enough. The rest is a waste.”

“That’s why you are the polymath,” I conceded. “But isn’t there wisdom in knowing how little one knows?”

Disdainfully, the polymath replied, “There’s wisdom in knowing just enough and not wasting effort and attention on anything more. That’s the difference between a professional and an amateur.”

I asked the polymath if he’d ever had a relationship with a woman.

He said, “No.”

“How much do you know about relationships?” I asked.

“There’s courting. And fucking. Maybe having kids,” he said.

“Is that all you need to know?”

“Pretty much. Don’t make it too difficult.”

“What about strategies?” I asked. “Like for when the relationship gets stale.”

“Relationships don’t get stale.”

“Really? Never?”

“You’re making things too difficult. It isn’t much different than the puck going into the net for a score.”

“And high score wins?”

“Yes. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

Again, I conceded. And I accepted that is why he is the polymath. And it’s how I came to be so smart by knowing so little too. It’s how I came to be his disciple.

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