Isaac Asimov was a celebrated science fiction writer. His IQ was 160, according to a test whose average score is 100. Once a mechanic demonstrated to Asimov how a dumb person would ask for nails from a hardware shop. Then the mechanic asked Asimov to demonstrate how a blind person would ask for a pair of scissors. Asimov made the gestures of cutting with a pair of scissors. The mechanic laughed and said, “The blind man would ask for it; who told you he’s dumb?” [Courtesy: B S Warrier’s note in today’s Malayala Manorama]
It seems that the mechanic went on to tell Asimov that he was sure that the latter would fail in this test. “Why?” asked Asimov surprised. “You are too learned,” said the mechanic, “so you aren’t likely to be smart.”
The trouble with the learned people is that their knowledge tends to act like the horse’s blinkers: they tend to think in a particular pattern. The parable above may not be the best example for that. This parable shows how our thinking is influenced by what precedes immediately. However, the knowledge we have accumulated in the past does influence our thinking very much. The problem with experts in particular fields is that their expertise may act as a straitjacket that narrows their thinking considerably.
One of the many delightful parables of Anthony de Mello tells the story of a man who bought a new hunting dog. He took the dog out on a trial hunt. He shot a bird which fell into a lake. The dog walked over the water, picked the bird up and brought it to the master.
Flabbergasted, the man shot another bird. Once again, while he rubbed his eyes in disbelief, the dog walked over the water and retrieved the bird.
He brought his neighbour (a scholar?) and demonstrated the feat that his dog was performing. The neighbour was not surprised. “Did you notice anything strange about that dog?” asked the man.The neighbour rubbed his chin pensively. “Yes,” he said, “I did notice it. The son of a gun can’t swim!”