Why you probably know nothing.
I hop into the taxi at Boston Logan Airport, excited to get back on campus.
“Harvard Square Kirkland House!” I cheerfully exclaim as I browse Instagram on my phone.
My driver grumbles, shifting the gears to exit the airport pickup zone. He seems upset.
“Can I tell you something,” he asks about 5 minutes into our journey.
“Sure.” I reply as I look up from my phone. I smile at him.
“You may think you know something, but really you know nothing. Nothing at all.”
What? I was confused, but curious. “What do you mean?”
“Maybe you think you are a musician. You’re not.
Perhaps you claim to be a mathematician. You’re not.
But your friends call you a comedian. You’re not.”
“Alright,” I say annoyed. “Well at least I’m educated!” (After all, I think, I know how to read and write!)
My driver scoffs, “Let’s not kid ourselves. You’re not smart, or clever, or knowledgeable.”
I say nothing. Instead I just stare at my driver, gawking. My phone screen is dark.
“For someone who goes to Harvard I’m surprised no one has told you this before.” He coldly utters as our gazes meet in the rearview mirror.
Then he continues.
You may think you know how to read, but if you won’t read you are no better than someone who does not know how to read.
You may think you know how to write, but if you won’t write you are no better than someone who does not know how to write.
You may think you know how to speak, but if you won’t speak you are no better than someone who does not know how to speak.
You may think you know how to ‘X,’ but if you won’t ‘X’ you are no better than someone who does not know how to ‘X’.
“Substitute X with anything you think you know,” he dares me. “I assure you that many of your claims on ‘knowledge’ will prove false.”
I accept the challenge in the backseat of the 2009 Acura. Racking my brain, I struggle. What did I really know? How to post on social media? How to take a picture with lighting “on fleek?”
My driver broke the silence: “But, cynicism aside, you are probably good at a few things: waking up, eating food, working mindlessly, browsing the Internet, and sleeping after ‘a hard day’s work!’” I nodded vigorously.
“In fact,” he continued, “many people are good at these things. Monkeys too! A monkey can open and close its eyes, open and close its mouth, and occasionally click on the latest news article. Oh how advanced and worthwhile the lot of you are.”
“I’m not a monkey,” I exclaim!
My driver laughs, “of course you aren’t – but you sure do act like one.”
Silence. Was he right?
“So how do I get rid of my apeishness?” I quietly ask.
“By attempting. First once, then twice, then thrice until finally you’ve changed. Like a frog kissed by a princess, you will become human.
“But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m not toting that ‘practice makes perfect.’ You’re not advanced enough for that yet. I’m not even toting that ‘practice makes.’ Instead I am revealing the very simple premise that if you won’t ‘practice’ you may as well not even know what ‘practicing’ is. Unless you make the effort to do, you will never do something and you will especially never do something perfectly.
“Prove that you can read by opting to read a book a week. Prove that you can write by starting a journal and sharing your writing with close friends. Prove that you can smile, laugh, live and die by smiling, laughing, and living everyday (we’ll hold off on that dying part until next time).
“Meanwhile, I’ll attend to the other 6,999,999,998 monkeys who think they know something. But who really know nothing.”
He pauses. “Nothing at all.”
The air is thick. Then, the GPS chimes. We had reached our destination, but I hadn’t even noticed.
He turns around and looks me dead in the face with a hard expression.
Then he smiles, “that’ll be $40!”
Special thanks to Christine Hong, Emma Stone, and my siblings for reading drafts of this.