control and the genius at burger bar

Within a couple blocks of my condo there are literally hundreds of places I could choose to eat. Like any good urban dweller I have my regular spots. I probably eat out close to 5 nights a week. It may not seem very economical but when you live in the city, that’s just the way it goes. You don’t have time to go to the grocery store or to cook and, in the end, time is more valuable than money. I’m not the only one that lives like this. At all my favourite spots there are regulars. Eating ends up being a great way to meet new people.

This one night I was talking to Hebert (I suspect he’s found my blog by now so I decided to give him a fake identity). Have you ever met a genius? I’m not talking about those self-proclaimed geniuses that were identified as “gifted” by their grade 1 teacher. I’m talking about people who have photographic memories and can use those contained facts and engage at a high level with anyone about anything. Hebert was this sort of person. He said to me, “So, if you wouldn’t mind me asking, what was the topic of your thesis?” I asked him if he ever heard of a guy named Wittgenstein. “Ah yes, Ludwig Wittgenstein, born in Vienna in 1889 to one of the wealthiest families in the country. His father made his fortune in the iron and steel industry and Ludwig, being the youngest of eight children, was given every opportunity to thrive artistically and intellectually. He began his professional education in engineering and quickly moved into philosophy where Bertrand Russell described him as “the most perfect genius”…” Hebert went on for a good 5 minutes and didn’t miss a beat and didn’t get one note wrong. I was all smiles.

We started engaging in various topics of philosophy, religion, ethics, politics and before I knew it, close to two hours had gone by; so much for eating out in order to save time. Then I asked him, “So you obviously read a lot. What it is exactly that you do?” (Yes, that’s the city for you; you can talk to someone for two hours before you ask them their name and what it is they do.) He said, “Well, I’m currently in advertising.” I was taken back. “Advertising? How did you end up there?” “Well, I quickly figured out that I could manipulate people’s desires and emotions based on what image I decided to show them. I could create wants that weren’t there and I could create, a desire that only my product could satisfy. In essence, I found that I had the ability to play God.” I said a few words but it wasn’t worth remembering. He continued, “Do you know what part of the paper I read every single day?” He fluttered around the paper before pointing to the celebrity gossip section. “Here it is! I read this every day because if I don’t then I won’t have anything to talk about with my co-workers or classmates. This is what excites our culture.”

Categories: culture, Existential Ideas


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